Jacinda Ardern casts vote in New Zealand general election

By Associated Press in Wellington

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has voted in the country’s general election, a week before polls officially close.

Ardern cast her vote in her Auckland district on Saturday after visiting a market in the suburb of Ōtara, where she was thronged by supporters.

Ardern’s Labour party has governed since the 2017 general election. It forged a narrow majority in New Zealand’s 120-seat parliament in a coalition with the leftwing Greens and rightwing New Zealand First parties.

Recent polls show a more comfortable result this year, with the Labour arty leading the National party, led by 61-year-old conservative Judith Collins, by as many as 13 points.

More than 700,000 people had voted by Saturday, a week before the official election day of 17 October, according to New Zealand’s Electoral Commission. Hundreds of thousands more are expected to vote in the coming week.

Ardern’s visit to Ōtara was an effort to get out the vote in an electorate in which Labour outpolls National by about four votes to one.

“We’re seeing really high turnout at the moment for advance voting,” Ardern said. “We want to make sure everyone uses their voice until election day.”

Voters have four choices to make this year. They are picking a candidate to represent their electorate and choosing which party to give their “party vote”. Seats in parliament are allocated on the basis of seats won and the percentage of the vote won by each party.

Voters also face two referendums. They will vote on the decriminalisation of cannabis and on the legalisation of “assisted dying” in limited cases.