New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern on Friday urged voters to deliver her a strong mandate at this weekend’s general election, promising to provide a swifter recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Ardern’s decisive response to the crisis has left her well-placed for Saturday’s vote, although recent polls have suggested her Labour Party may need support from the minor Greens Party to form government.
Labour has a comfortable double-digit lead over the main opposition centre-right National Party, while support for the Greens has been steady. The polls also predict the demise of the nationalist New Zealand First Party, Labour’s current coalition partner led by deputy prime minister Winston Peter.
If Labour wins outright, it will be the first party to govern alone since New Zealand switched to a mixed member proportional (MMP) system in 1996.
A coalition of Labour and the Greens would be the first left-leaning government in more than a decade, a scenario that conservative National Party leader Judith Collins has warned would mean more taxes and a business-unfriendly environment.
Collins, 61, argues that she is best placed to tackle the post-pandemic financial challenges.
Both leaders organised walkabouts across the country on Friday to woo an undecided voter bloc of around 14%.
About 1.5 million of 3.5 million registered voters have already cast their ballot. Polling closes at 1900 New Zealand time (0600 GMT) on Saturday, with a provisional result likely the same night.