Polls close in New Zealand's cliffhanger election

With 99 percent of votes tallied, National won 58 of the 120 seats in parliament, while Labour got 45.

Despite losing their Māori Party coalition partners to a Labour surge in the Māori seats, National have the faithful of Epsom to thank for a single extra seat won by Act's ever faithful David Seymour.

Jacinda Ardern has made her campaign about shaking things up, pointing the finger at the governing National party for widening inequality during its nine years in office.

The general election in New Zealand has ended in a stalemate with the ruling National Party falling short of a clear-cut majority to govern for the fourth time, according to official results.

"We believe the country clearly wants a coherent government", he said.

Opinion polls leading up to the vote had been volatile with two recent ones giving National a near 10 point lead over Labour.

Ms Ardern, who electrified New Zealand's election when she took over as main opposition Labour leader just seven weeks ago, signalled she had not given up hope of forming a government.

But her party's immediate future is no longer in her hands.

"We know though that traditionally, they've been less likely to vote", she said.

"I wish I could answer your question, honestly I wish I could because I've had it asked of me 1,000 times in the last five weeks", he told Radio New Zealand this week.

In the past, he has raised concerns about New Zealand becoming an "Asian colony" and warned about migrants taking jobs from locals.

He pointed out that National out-polled Labour and the Greens combined, saying voters had shown a clear preference for the centre-right party.

Galvanised support for the ailing party gave it a 20-point popularity boost to draw level with National. Peters said his party will not rush into a decision.

"He will be well aware that we have pretty strong support from the New Zealand public, significantly stronger than any other party and I'm sure he will respect that".

It was a personal triumph, too, as it was more than double the 21 percent vote English attracted in the grand failure as National leader back in 2002. In 1996 he campaigned to close borders to what he called the "Asian invasion", and since then he has continued to call for a crackdown on immigration, which he says is the cause of New Zealand's housing and social problems.

Ardern said she expected to have conversations with both James Shaw and Winston Peters tomorrow. New Zealanders voted for a change - more parties voted against National than for it.

The official results of the election won't be released until October 7, when special votes - ballots cast overseas or by those who enrolled and voted at the same time, Bramwell said - are fully accounted for.

"This is going to come down to whether or not people turn out and vote", she said Friday.

  • Joey Payne