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Jacinda Ardern set to strengthen hold as New Zealand votes

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New Zealanders went to the polls on Saturday in a general election that could see Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern strengthen her left-of-centre hold on government or a challenge from conservatives led by Judith Collins.

Labour Party leader Ardern, 40, and National Party chief Collins, 61, are the faces of the election to form the country’s 53rd parliament, a pandemic-focused referendum on Ardern’s three-year term.

Doors to the polling booths opened at 9 a.m. (2000 GMT on Friday), though a record number of voters had already cast their ballots in advance.

Restrictions are in place on what news media can report about the race until polls close at 7 p.m. (0600 GMT), after which the Electoral Commission is expected to begin releasing preliminary results.

The election was delayed by a month after new COVID-19 infections in Auckland, that led to a second lockdown in the country’s largest city.

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