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Two women vie to lead New Zealand as voting opens

October 17, 2020 11:47 am
Ardern (left) and National leader Judith Collins participate in a televised debate in Auckland in September [Source: Reuters]

New Zealanders have started voting on Saturday in a general election that could see Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern strengthen her left-of-centre hold on government or a challenge from conservatives led by Judith Collins.

Labour Party leader Ardern, 40, and National Party chief Collins, 61, are the faces of the election to form the country’s 53rd parliament, a pandemic-focused referendum on Ardern’s three-year term.

Doors to the polling booths opened at 9am local time on Saturday (20:00 GMT on Friday), though a record number of voters had already cast their ballots in advance.

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Restrictions are in place on what news media can report about the race until polls close at 7pm (06:00 GMT), after which the Electoral Commission is expected to begin releasing preliminary results.

More than 1.7 million ballots had already been cast as of Friday, accounting for almost half of the about 3.5 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.

The election was originally set for September 19 but was delayed by a virus outbreak in Auckland that has now been contained.

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