New Zealand elections: Nationalist party likely kingmaker after hung Parliament

National Party leader Bill English addresses supporters on elec

In 1996, he sided with National, working alongside prime minister Jim Bolger and later his successor Jenny Shipley, who coincidentally was having dinner at the same restaurant as Mr Peters party on Saturday night. And they offer some redemption for English, who led his party to its worst-ever defeat in 2002.

"In the next few days we will begin discussions with New Zealand First, finding common ground, and, most importantly, taking on the responsibility of forming the kind of government that will enable New Zealand to get on with its success".

He thanked rival Jacinda Ardern for a hard-fought campaign, which he said had motivated and engaged more New Zealanders than any campaign he could remember.

"Obviously we hoped for better", she said.

Mr English revelled in his party's success, talking up the size of its vote, while also having kind words for his main opponent Jacinda Ardern and Labour.

"I simply can not predict at this point what decisions other leaders will make", she said.

She has said she will continue to focus on the issues important to the party. The 55-year-old ex-farmer and former finance minister took over as prime minister when John Key stepped down in December.

New Zealand's parliamentary elections on Saturday yield no clear victor as tally ended in the wee hours of Sunday, leaving the third largest party with 7.5 percent of the votes the kingmaker.

Under New Zealand's proportional voting system, large parties typically have to form alliances with smaller parties in order to govern.

Labour won 45 seats with its political partner Green on seven.




But who New Zealand First will favour remains unclear.

Leader of NZF Winston Peters gave no indication which of the two blocs his New Zealand First - and its nine seats from 7.5 per cent of the vote - would support.

The 37-year-old has always been recognised for her youthful and progressive injection into New Zealand politics, since first joining the Labour Party at the age of 17.

While Ardern experienced an early surge in popularity, opinion polls showed a swing back to English in the final days of the campaign.

While tipping a close race, he is confident National can win a fourth term, a feat no New Zealand government has achieved in more than 50 years.

"Sometimes MMP leaves us with an outcome that requires a little bit of extra work", she said.

Her policy platform includes free tertiary education and slashing immigration to reduce pressure on housing and infrastructure.

"Certainly it's been somewhat frustrating dealing with their negative campaign", Ardern said.

Peters, a political veteran whose fiery rhetoric has seen him compared to US President Donald Trump, knows how to extract the most from coalition negotiations.

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