Early counting in New Zealand's general election on Saturday showed that the ruling National Party led by former foreign exchange dealer John Key was set to return to power, possibly with an outright majority.

With 6.6 percent of the vote counted, official election figures showed the centre-right National with 49.8 percent compared with 26.4 percent for Labour.

Those figures would translate into 62 seats for National in a 121-seat parliament from its current 58 seats.

Two small parties, which had been part of Key's outgoing coalition also looked as if they might each get a seat, further bolstering the centre-right grouping.

Labour was on course for 33 seats compared with 43 seats in the previous parliament.

Under New Zealand's German-style proportional voting system, parties must secure either a local electorate seat, or 5 percent of the nationwide vote.

(Gyles Beckford)