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Polls open in knife-edge New Zealand election

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Polls opened on Saturday in a cliffhanger New Zealand election pitting conservative Prime Minister Bill English against charismatic young rival Jacinda Ardern.

[WELLINGTON] Polls opened on Saturday in a cliffhanger New Zealand election pitting conservative Prime Minister Bill English against charismatic young rival Jacinda Ardern.

The campaign has been the most volatile in recent memory, with momentum swinging from Mr English to Ms Ardern and then back again.

"This election is going to be really close... it's a drag race between the two big parties," Mr English said on the hustings on Friday, conceding a large undecided vote could prove key.

No party has claimed a majority government in New Zealand's 120-seat parliament since proportional voting was adopted in 1996 and this election is unlikely to change that.

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Opinion polls show either Mr English's conservative National Party or Ms Ardern's centre-left Labour could be in a position to form government late Saturday.

Another possibility is that there will be no winner on the night as both major parties seek coalition partners to get them over the line.

If that happens, populist anti-immigration campaigner Winston Peters New Zealand First party looms as a potential kingmaker.

Polling booths opened at 9am (2100 GMT Friday) and will close at 7pm (0700 GMT).

There are 3.2 million registered voters, more than a million of whom have cast their ballots early.

AFP

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