Jacinda Ardern will serve a second term as New Zealand Prime Minister after Labor’s landslide election victory on Saturday, which allowed for a major shift towards progressive parties.
With most votes counted, Labor won nearly 50 percent of the vote against 27 percent for the National Opposition Party – a result that could see the party form the first majority government in the Pacific nation since 1996 .
The resounding victory follows a Labor campaign focused on Ms Ardern’s strong and empathetic leadership during a series of crises, including Covid-19 and the murder of 51 Muslims in Christchurch by a far-right extremist in 2019.
“Tonight New Zealand showed the Labor Party its biggest support in 50 years. . . “It is clear that the Labor Party will lead the government for the next three years,” Ms Ardern told cheering supporters in Auckland.
She said Labor would rule on behalf of all New Zealanders and had not ruled out joining a coalition with the Green Party, despite winning enough seats to govern on its own.
New Zealand first, a nationalist party currently in coalition with the Labor Party, is unlikely to win any seats, according to preliminary results.
Judith Collins, leader of the center-right national party, congratulated Ms Ardern on a “great result” for the Labor Party and said the party would be back in three years.
The result delivers a strong national mandate to Ms Ardern, whose Labor Party was overtaken in the 2017 election by the National Party but succeeded in assembling a ruling coalition to form the government.
During the campaign, Labor pledged to tackle inequality, but presented few concrete policy proposals, apart from raising taxes for people earning more than NZ $ 180,000 ($ 119,000 ).
During her first term, the 40-year-old Labor leader was hailed by international media as a progressive “anti-Trump” figure who promoted multilateralism and tolerance. But it was his decisive action and clear communication during the Covid-19 crisis that enabled a historic electoral victory.
When the pandemic struck, New Zealand sealed its borders and put in place a strict lockdown. Only 25 people have died from Covid-19.
Community transmission of the virus was eradicated last week for the second time in New Zealand following an outbreak and another strict lockdown in Auckland.
The success of the fight against the pandemic has seen New Zealand remove almost all social distancing restrictions, except for closing its borders and strict quarantine arrangements for returning residents.
Last week, Ms Ardern attended a New Zealand-Australia rugby match in front of a capacity crowd in Wellington, one of the first international sporting events to be staged without social distancing brakes during the Covid-19 era.
Labor has also benefited from the disarray within the National Party, which has changed leaders three times since February 2018. Todd Muller resigned in July citing health concerns and was replaced by Ms Collins, a combative politician from 61-year-old earned the nickname “Crusher Collins” for proposing to destroy the “race boys” cars while serving as police minister.