Auckland, New Zealand – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a second term in office on Saturday in an electoral landslide of historic proportions.
With most votes counted, Ardern’s Liberal Labor Party was winning 49% of the vote compared to 27% for its main challenger, the conservative National Party.
Labor was on target to win the outright majority of seats in parliament, something that New Zealand implemented a proportional voting system 24 years ago. Generally, the parties must form alliances to govern, but this time Ardern and Labor can do it alone.
In a victory speech in front of hundreds of enthusiastic supporters in Auckland, Ardern said that his party has received more support from the people of New Zealand, at any time in at least 50 years.
“This has not been a simple election, and it is not a normal time,” she said. “It is full of uncertainty and anxiety, and we are the antidote to that.”
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Ardern promised not to take his new supporters to rule and govern for all New Zealanders.
“We’re living in an increasingly polarized world, a place where, more and more, people have lost the ability to see each other’s point of view,” she said. “I think in this election, the people of New Zealand have shown that it is not us.”
In two weeks, record voters have chosen early ballots.
On the campaign trail, Ardern was greeted like a rock star, people who roamed the mall and roamed the streets to cheer him up and take selfies with him.
His popularity soared earlier this year when he led a successful effort to stamp coronoviruses. Currently there is no community spread of the virus in a nation of 5 million and people are no longer required to wear masks or social distances.
The 40-year-old Orderon won the top job after the 2017 election when Labor aligned with two other parties. The following year, she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.
She became a role model for working mothers around the world, many of whom saw her as a counterpart to President Donald Trump. And he was praised for dealing with last year’s attack on two Christchurch mosques, when a white supremacist shot 51 Muslim worshipers.
He moved quickly to pass new laws banning new types of semi-automatic weapons.
In late March of this year, when only 100 people tested positive for COVID-19, Ardern and his health officials put New Zealand in a strict lockdown with a motto of “Go hard and go fast”. It closed the borders and outlined the ambitious goal of eradicating the virus, rather than trying to control its spread.
The strategy worked, with New Zealand benefiting from being a separate island nation. The country ended community broadcasting for 102 days before a new cluster was discovered in Auckland in August. Ardern swiftly imposed a second lockdown in Auckland and the new outbreak went away. The only recently found new cases are those returning passengers, who are in quarantine.
The outbreak of Auckland also prompted Ardern to postpone the election for a month and helped to increase early voters.
The leader of the National Party, Judith Collins, is a former lawyer. She was serving as a minister when National was in power and she describes herself as a blunt, no-nonsense approach, contrary to Ardern’s imperialist style. The 61-year-old Collins was promising extensive tax cuts in response to the economic downturn caused by the virus.
In a speech to her supporters in Auckland, Collins said she would call Aderon to congratulate him.
“This is an excellent result for the Labor Party,” Collins said. “It has been a difficult campaign.”
Collins promised that the party would return to fight another day.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and his younger New Zealand First Party also voted in the election. The Independence Act party increased its support by 8% and the Green Party garnered 7.5% of the vote.
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Labor Minister David Parker said it was a resounding victory for his party. “It is first and foremost appreciation for the Prime Minister, but also for the wider Labor team and the Labor movement,” he said.
In the election, voters also had two controversial social issues – whether to legalize marijuana and euthanasia. Polls taken before the election indicated that the euthanasia referendum was likely to pass while the results of the marijuana vote remained uncertain. The results of both referendums will be announced on October 30.