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A guide to New Zealand's 2020 election

The Australian Associated Press has been covering the New Zealand election. Here is the overseas wire service's final take on the contest before election day. 

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern (left) and National leader Judith Collins (right) face off in the Stuff Leaders' Debate. Source: Supplied

New Zealand's election day is tomorrow, with Kiwis set to decide their next Parliament and prime minister for the next three years.

Labour - Jacinda Ardern

Incumbents Labour are hot favourites to be handed another term in office, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on track to win an increased share of the vote.

Ardern has responded to a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption and a pandemic during her term in office and Kiwis have graded her government's response to Covid-19 well.

Labour's campaign pitch is one of stability and unity as during an economic recovery from the virus, which has been eliminated from New Zealand.

National - Judith Collins

Under John Key and Bill English, centre-right opposition party National governed for three terms prior to Labour's win in 2017.

The party is promising tax cuts and improved government delivery after several botched projects from Ardern's coalition government.

However, National has cycled through three leaders in five months and leaders Judith Collins has nowhere near Ardern's personal popularity.

The minor parties

New Zealand First - Polling at just three per cent, the party of Deputy PM Winston Peters looks set to exit Parliament, bringing the curtains down on Peters' 41-year career in politics.

The Greens - Polling at eight per cent, the left-wingers loom as Labour's likely coalition partner should Ardern's government miss a majority.

ACT - The libertarians are polling at eight per cent, transforming the right- wingers from a one-man parliamentary outfit to a serious force in Kiwi politics.

The Māori Party - Running in the seven Māori electorates, the Māori party is an outside chance of upsetting Labour in one or two seats to return to Parliament after a three-year hiatus.

The issues

Covid-19. And that's about it.

The government's handling of the deadly virus has catapulted Labour's standing from second place in the polls at the turn of the year to a dominant position.

Out on the campaign trail, the most common phrase uttered to Ardern is "thanks for keeping us safe".

Put simply, Kiwis believe Ardern is responsible for the eliminating the virus from New Zealand, and trust her government with the economic recovery.

The system

Since 1996, New Zealand has picked its Parliament through a mixed member proportional (MMP) electorate system.

While Kiwis elect local MPs, it's the all-important "party vote" that decides the result.

This year, more than 1.5 million New Zealanders have already cast ballots by making advance votes.

That will allow the majority of votes to be counted and announced within two hours of polls closing at 7pm tomorrow, meaning the government makeup should be known before bedtime.

The return of special, including international, votes are shuffled in over the coming days.

Referendums

In addition to the election, New Zealanders are also voting on two referendums; on proposals to legalise cannabis and euthanasia.

Polls suggest the cannabis poll is likely to fail, while the End Of Life Choice ballot has popular support.