September 23, 2017 / 10:14 AM / 10 months ago

National Party leads in New Zealand polls; New Zealand First still likely kingmaker

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Votes cast for New Zealand’s ruling National Party hit 46.5 percent on Saturday evening with 70 percent of results counted, putting the center-right party in the lead as it vies for a fourth term in government, according to the Electoral Commission.

Center-left Labour accounted for 35.5 percent and its possible coalition partner, the Green Party had 5.9 percent of the vote.

Still, the National Party would likely need the populist New Zealand First Party, which had 7.4 percent of the vote, to form a government.

A complete preliminary count was expected by around 2330 local time, but the final result, which would also include ballots cast by New Zealanders overseas, would not be released until Oct. 7.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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