BFF-05 Polls open in New Zealand election

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NZEALAND-VOTE-POLLING

Polls open in New Zealand election

WELLINGTON, Oct 17, 2020 (AFP) – Polling booths opened in New Zealand’s general election Saturday, with voters queueing at schools and community halls across the South Pacific nation to cast their ballots.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is seeking another three-year term for her centre-left government, against an opposition led by the conservative National Party.

Officials opened polling stations at 9:00 am (2000 GMT Friday) and they will close at 7:00 pm (0600 GMT), with about 3.5 million people are registered to vote.

New Zealand has strict election day laws that restrict media reporting and political advertising while polling booths are open to prevent voters being swayed.

The laws also do not allow exit polls, so the electorate will have no gauge of how the vote is going until early results are released after polls close.

About 1.7 million people, or almost half the electorate, cast their ballots early, a much higher proportion than previous elections.

That means the result could be known relatively early on Saturday night.

The election was originally set for September 19 but was delayed by a virus outbreak in Auckland that has now been contained.

Voters will also cast ballots in two referendums, one on legalising recreational cannabis and the other on legalising euthanasia, although the results of those votes will not be known until October 30.

BSS/AFP/MMA/0820HRS