Barnaby Joyce claims victory in New England by-election

Barnaby Joyce has seized an early lead as the first polling booths return the results of the New England by-election and is poised to take back his old seat.

The former deputy prime minister is projected to win with 71.16 per cent of the two candidate preferred vote after four of 103 polling places returned results to the Australian Electoral Commission on Saturday evening.

The Nationals federal leader's closest rival, Labor's David Ewings, picked up the remaining 28.84 per cent.

Barnaby Joyce has returned to the New England electorate to cast his vote in the by-election

Barnaby Joyce (pictured) seized an early lead as the first polling booths return the results of the New England by-election and is poised to take back his old seat

Barnaby Joyce (pictured) seized an early lead as the first polling booths return the results of the New England by-election and is poised to take back his old seat

The former deputy prime minister (pictured) is projected to win with 71.16 per cent of the two candidate preferred vote after four of 103 polling places returned results to the Australian Electoral Commission on Saturday evening

The former deputy prime minister (pictured) is projected to win with 71.16 per cent of the two candidate preferred vote after four of 103 polling places returned results to the Australian Electoral Commission on Saturday evening

However, with just a tiny fraction of the vote counted there are still hours until a clear winner emerges.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with his former deputy at a polling booth in Tamworth just before voting closed.

'There have been some personalities and there have been some tensions, there is no doubt about that,' Mr Turnbull told reporters when questioned about the calls from within the Nationals for his resignation.

'The people of New England, returning Barnaby today, are making a great contribution to the government.'

The Nationals federal leader's closest rival, Labor's David Ewings, picked up the remaining 28.84 per cent (pictured are Mr Joyce and Mr Turnbull celebrating)

The Nationals federal leader's closest rival, Labor's David Ewings, picked up the remaining 28.84 per cent (pictured are Mr Joyce and Mr Turnbull celebrating)

Barnaby Joyce greets Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth on Saturday

Barnaby Joyce greets Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth on Saturday

Barnaby Joyce greets prime minister Malcolm Turnbull pose for a selfie with a woman at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth on Saturday

Barnaby Joyce greets prime minister Malcolm Turnbull pose for a selfie with a woman at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth on Saturday

The pair played down talk of splintering within the coalition, with Mr Turnbull saying his friendship and working relationship with Mr Joyce was the most important in the government.

'The relationship between our parties is strong and Barnaby is a strong leader,' he said.

He said the sooner Mr Joyce is back in Canberra at the helm of the National party and the deputy prime ministership, the better.

Minutes after the meeting, Mr Joyce told reporters

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