Wellington: New Zealand political leaders made their final pitch to voters on Friday as election-eve polls pointed to Prime Minister John Key scraping a win.
Key, who is seeking a third term, said his support remained solid despite dirty tricks allegations against his centre-right government, while Labour leader David Cunliffe said he saw a growing mood for change.
Both leaders predicted the outcome would be close under New Zealand`s complicated proportional voting system, which is notoriously hard to predict and has not delivered a majority government since it was introduced in 1996.
A New Zealand Herald poll showed Key`s National Party on 48.2 percent, down 0.4 percent on a week earlier, with Labour up 3.7 percent on 26.1 and its left-wing ally the Greens at 12.0 percent (down 1.0).
That would allow Key to return to power with support from the minor parties that already form part of his coalition government.
He said the electorate had not been swayed by allegations his government used underhand tactics to smear its opponents and backed mass surveillance on the population, arguing that they are more interested in "stable leadership and a growing economy".
"There`s been all these distractions and different issues going on but the polling hasn`t really moved," Key told reporters. "There`s just the natural tightening you get in any (campaign) cycle."
However, Cunliffe cited another poll published by Fairfax Media which recorded a large, potentially decisive, swing of 5.1 percent against the government over the past week, reducing its support to 47.7 percent.
The poll had Labour on 26.1 (up 3.7) and the Greens on 12.0 (down 1.0) putting them within striking distance of forming the government if they can win backing from political maverick Winston Peters` New Zealand First Party.
Cunliffe said that, on those figures, a swing of as little as one percent could result in a change of government.
"I feel a huge momentum for change building up in the electorate," he told Radio New Zealand.
"I can feel it, it`s palpable and my message to New Zealanders is to be part of the change and get out there and vote."
Voting begins at 9:00 am (2100 GMT Friday) and closes at 7:00 pm for the 3.06 million registered voters.
First indications of the election outcome are expected within four hours of the polls closing.
There are 71 electorates with the remaining seats filled through party votes bringing the number of MPs in parliament to around 120 under the proportional voting system.