New Zealand's Ardern seeks second term as pandemic-focused polls open

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

New Zealanders went to the polls on Saturday (October 17) in a general election that could see Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern strengthen her left-of-center hold on government or a challenge from conservatives led by Judith Collins.

The Electoral Commission said on Saturday that almost 2 million ballots had already been cast as of Friday (October 16), accounting for more than half of the roughly 3.5 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.

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.

Restrictions are in place on what news media can report about the race until polls close at 7 p.m. (0600 GMT), after which the Electoral Commission is expected to begin releasing preliminary results.

The election was delayed by a month after new COVID-19 infections in Auckland, that led to a second lockdown in the country's largest city.

(Source: Reuters)

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