New Zealand polls open as record numbers of voters cast ballots in advance

A file combo taken in Wellington on December 5, 2016, shows New Zealand's National Party prime minister Bill English (L) and a file photo of opposition Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern (R) taken in Wellington on August 1, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2017
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New Zealand polls open as record numbers of voters cast ballots in advance

WELLINGTON: New Zealand went to the polls to choose the make-up of its fifty-second Parliament on Saturday, in a close-run race between the governing National Party and the opposition Labour Party.
Doors to the polling booths opened at 0900 local time, though a record number of voters had already cast their ballots in advance. Voting would end at 1900 and the country’s Electoral Commission would start releasing results half an hour later.
The center-left Labour Party, led by recently appointed 37-year-old leader Jacinda Ardern, was vying against incumbent National. The center-right governing party, led by 55-year-old Bill English, had been in power for almost a decade.
Around 986,000 ballots have already been cast, accounting for almost a third of the 3.2 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.
“Special votes,” which includes ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those who vote outside their home constituencies, will only be released on Oct. 7.
These could have a considerable impact on the outcome, given New Zealand’s large diaspora, and accounted for around 12 percent of the vote in the 2014 election.
New Zealand uses a German-style proportional representation system in which a party, or combination of parties, needs 61 of Parliament’s 120 members — usually about 48 percent of the vote — to form a government. This means that minor parties often play an influential role in determining which major party governs.


South African court says marijuana use in private is legal

Members of the African Democratic Change political party sing outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on September 18, 2018, as South Africa's top court is ruling over a law banning cannabis use. (AFP)
Updated 50 min 44 sec ago
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South African court says marijuana use in private is legal

  • The court also ordered parliament to draft new laws within 24 months to reflect the order
  • Previous court hearings on the emotive issue have drawn protests by those opposed to legalising cannabis, as well as by those in favour of decriminalisation

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s top court says adults can use marijuana in private.
The Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a provincial court’s ruling in a case involving Gareth Prince, who advocates the decriminalization of the drug.
Prince says cannabis should be regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Government authorities have said cannabis is harmful and should be illegal.
The top court says an adult can cultivate cannabis in “a private place” as long as it is for personal consumption in private. It says the right to privacy “extends beyond the boundaries of a home.”
The court says it would be up to a police officer to decide if the amount of marijuana in someone’s possession is for personal consumption or dealing.