New Zealand’s cliffhanger election ended in a stalemate Saturday, leaving maverick populist Winston Peters of the New Zealand First party to decide whether conservative Prime Minister Bill English or his youthful challenger Jacinda Ardern forms government.
Mr English delivered an unexpectedly strong performance to claim 46 percent of the vote, while the much-hyped “Jacinda-mania” surrounding Ms Ardern, a former policy advisor to Tony Blair, fell short as she finished on 36.
“Of course we were hoping for higher… obviously we hoped for better,” said Ms Ardern, the 37-year-old who had looked set for an upset win after taking over the centre-left Labour Party last month.
It could be another two weeks before the outcome is known, with Mr Peters saying he was in no hurry to decide who to support.
The major parties must forge coalitions to reach a majority under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, but all of the existing groupings fell short.
On the final count, Mr English’s National Party and current ally ACT had 59 seats, two shy of the 61 needed to win.