Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a landslide victory in New Zealand’s general election on Saturday and used the success in the fight against Covid-19 to gain an unprecedented majority and the chance to implement her reform agenda.
With two-thirds of the vote, the center-left Labor party von Ardern was 49.2 percent and forecast around 64 seats in the 120-member parliament.
No leader has achieved an absolute majority since New Zealand introduced a proportional voting system in 1996 that resulted in a succession of multi-party governments.
Although the count has not yet been completed, the numbers were enough for opposition leader Judith Collins to give in after calling Ardern.
“Congratulations on your result because I think it is an outstanding result for the Labor Party. It was a tough campaign,” said Collins to cheering supporters in Auckland.
Their conservative national party was expected to take around 35 seats in what appears to be the worst result in nearly 20 years.
Ardern’s performance surpassed pre-election polls and set Labor on its way to its strongest performance since 1946.
Party President Claire Szabo praised the charismatic leader’s campaign, which sparked a wave of support dubbed “Jacinda Mania” when she took over the party in 2017 as it waned in the polls.
“There is no doubt that the strong, great leadership we had from Jacinda Ardern was a massive factor in all of this,” she told NZ.
Ardern had called the vote a “Covid election” and campaigned for the success of her government in preventing community transmission of the virus, which caused only 25 deaths in a population of five million people.
The pandemic is just one of many crises that have shown Ardern’s leadership skills during a hot first term.
She showed both empathy and decisive action over gun control after a white supremacist rifleman killed 51 Muslim worshipers in the attack on Christchurch mosques last year.
Ardern once again comforted a shocked nation when a volcanic eruption on White Island, also known as Whakaari, killed 21 people and left dozens more horribly burned.
“No matter what crisis comes my way, you will always be sure that I will give everything for this job, even if it means a great sacrifice,” she said this week.
– ‘Exceptional Profit’ –
Ardern was criticized in her first term for failing to keep some key promises such as improving housing affordability and combating child poverty.
Green co-chair Marama Davidson, whose party ruled in coalition with Labor for the first term, said the prime minister now has a mandate to implement change.
“I would like to congratulate Jacinda Ardern and her team on an exceptional win,” she said.
“The results show how badly New Zealanders want a strong, really progressive government.”
Collins focused on the specter of the Greens, which forced Ardern to introduce a wealth tax aimed at the rising middle class.
But their attacks were not well received and the party is likely to lag far behind the vote it saw in the last election in 2017.
The conservative leader, known as the “Crusher” for her tough policies, as police minister in a previous government, has vowed to remain leader regardless of the outcome.
Around 3.5 million people are registered, 1.9 million or far more than half cast their ballots early – a much higher number than in previous elections.
The vote was originally scheduled for September 19, but was delayed by a virus outbreak in Auckland that has now been contained.
Collins, who took over the National Party in July after a period of turmoil when the party had three leaders in three months, said the false start had cost their campaign momentum.
Voters also voted in two referendums, one to legalize recreational cannabis and the other to legalize euthanasia, though the results of those votes won’t be known until October 30th.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)