AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The Latest on New Zealand's national election (all times local):
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has addressed hundreds of supporters in Auckland after his National Party won the most votes in the general election.
He said early Sunday that the voters had spoken and now his party had the responsibility of working to give New Zealand a strong and stable government.
He said it was clear neither the National Party nor the Labour Party could govern alone, and so in the next few days he planned to begin discussions with the New Zealand First party.
He said, "We don't need to rush this process."
He thanked rival Jacinda Ardern for a hard-fought campaign, which he said had motivated and engaged more New Zealanders than any campaign he could remember.
English said, "We gave it everything, and we got better and better."
Figures released by New Zealand election authorities show a record 1.2 million people chose to cast their votes before election day on Saturday.
That equates to about half of all the votes likely to be cast in the nation of just under 5 million people. Election authorities have been making it easier for people to cast early votes, which they can do at certain polling stations up to two weeks before the election.
It also means that New Zealanders might find out the results quicker because early votes are counted before the polls close at 7 p.m. Saturday. The first results will be announced about 90 minutes after polls close.
Saturday's national election appears to be a close race between conservative Prime Minister Bill English and liberal challenger Jacinda Ardern.
New Zealanders were voting Saturday in a national election that appears to be a close race between conservative Prime Minister Bill English and liberal challenger Jacinda Ardern.
Ardern has enjoyed a remarkable surge in popularity since taking over as opposition leader last month. The 37-year-old has been greeted like a rock star at large rallies and has generated plenty of excitement among her fans.
The 55-year-old English has run a more low-key campaign, highlighting his experience and the economic growth the country has enjoyed. He's promising tax cuts for most workers.
Opinion polls indicate there has been a swing back to English in the waning days of the campaign after Ardern had all the early momentum.
Voting continues until 7 p.m. local time with first results expected about 90 minutes later.