Polls open in New Zealand general elections

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg July 6

Ms Ardern has phoned Mr English and acknowledged his National party has won the largest share of the seats.

Another possibility is that there will be no victor on the night with both major parties seeking coalition partners to get them over the line.

"New Zealanders overwhelmingly voted for change", he said.

New Zealand's election ended in a stalemate, with Prime Minister Bill English and the main opposition leader Jacinda Ardern vying for the support of a small, anti-immigration party to reach a majority.

Mr English, a career politician and a former finance minister, says he thinks a major accomplishment of his party is has been getting New Zealand onto "such a stable economic footing". New Zealand First has nine seats and Greens, which won 5.8 percent of the votes, have seven.

"From the bottom of my heart I thank you".

For English, who campaigned heavily on National's economic credentials after taking the party leadership previous year, the strong showing was a vindication after National crashed to its worst ever election result in 2002 under his first stint as leader.

But it sounded like a concession speech instead of someone who leads by far the biggest party in an alternative combination of parties to National.

"We'll make a decision in the interests of all New Zealand and New Zealand First, that is the whole country, not ourselves in the party but in the national interest and that will take some time", Peters said.

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Mr English now needs the support of New Zealand First and Mr Peters if he is to form a Government, after long-time partners the Maori Party did not make it back into Parliament.

The results could put Prime Minister Bill English's National Party in a position to remain in power for a fourth term despite a strong challenge from Labour - a party that had led in some polls preceding Saturday's election. National's attack on Labour was effective but heavy on post-truth politics.

Ms Ardern has been a game-shifter for the New Zealand Labour Party, appealing to the "young and urban", according to recently resigned leader of the party, Andrew Little.

In the marginal seat of Hutt South, National's Chris Bishop came from behind to beat Labour's Ginny Andersen.

"I simply can not predict at this point what decisions other leaders will make", she said. I haven't done as well for them as I would have liked.

"I'm a very reasonable person but I don't sell myself or my principles out", he said.

"There's conversations that need to be had and we're open to those", she said.

The official results of the election won't be released until October 7, when special votes - ballots cast overseas or by those who enrolled and voted at the same time, Bramwell said - are fully accounted for.

A campaign that had been focused on issues such as the housing crisis, child poverty and health instead became focused on the economy.

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