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Jacinda Ardern wins landslide re-election in New Zealand

No leader has achieved an outright majority since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996.

Updated Oct 17th 2020, 3:00 PM

2.56096967 Source: PA Images

NEW ZEALAND PRIME Minister Jacinda Ardern has won by a landslide in New Zealand’s general election, leveraging success battling Covid-19 to gain a second term and the chance to implement her reform agenda.

With two thirds of the vote counted, Ardern’s centre-left Labour Party was on 49.2% and forecast to take around 64 seats in the 120-member parliament

In a victory speech in front of hundreds of cheering supporters in Auckland, Ms Ardern said her party had gotten more support from New Zealanders that at any time in at least 50 years.

She said: “This has not been an ordinary election, and it’s not an ordinary time.

“It’s been full of uncertainty and anxiety, and we set out to be an antidote to that.”

Ardern promised not to take her new supporters for granted and to govern for all New Zealanders.

“We are living in an increasingly polarised world, a place where, more and more, people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view,” she said.

“I think in this election, New Zealanders have shown that this is not who we are.”

2.56096746 Ardern is congratulated by her partner Clarke Gayford.

A record number of voters cast early ballots in the two weeks leading up to the election.

No leader has achieved an outright majority since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996, leading to a succession of multi-party governments.

While the count has not been finalised, the figures were enough for opposition leader Judith Collins to concede after phoning Ardern.

“Congratulations on your result because it is, I believe, an outstanding result for the Labour Party. It has been a tough campaign,” Collins told cheering supporters in Auckland.

Her conservative National Party was expected to take around 35 seats in what appears to be its worst result in nearly 20 years.

Ardern’s performance beat pre-election opinion polls and put Labour on course for its strongest showing since 1946.

Party president Claire Szabo praised the campaign of the charismatic leader, who sparked a wave of support dubbed “Jacinda-mania” when she took over the party in 2017 as it was languishing in the polls.

“There’s no doubt the strong, great leadership we’ve had from Jacinda Ardern has been a massive factor in all this,” she told NZ.

Ardern had dubbed the vote “the Covid election” and campaigned on her government’s success in eliminating community transmission of the virus, which has caused just 25 deaths in a population of five million.

The pandemic is just one of a string of crises that showed Ardern’s leadership qualities during a torrid first term.

Ardern this morning appeared relaxed and brought homemade cheese scones to campaign volunteers in Auckland.

A record number of voters cast early ballots in the two weeks leading up to the election, the results of which will be announced later today. 

On the campaign trail, Ardern has been greeted like a rock star by people who have crammed into malls and spilled onto streets to cheer her on and get selfies with her.

Her popularity soared earlier this year after she led a successful effort to stamp out the coronavirus.

There is currently no community spread of the virus in the nation of five million and people are no longer required to wear masks or socially distance.

2.56093027 Ardern stands with her electorate workers at an event in Auckland.

One question will be whether Labour can win an outright majority in parliament, something that has not happened since New Zealand implemented a proportional voting system 24 years ago.

Typically, parties must form alliances to govern, but this time there is a chance Ardern and Labour will be able to go it alone.

Ardern’s rival Collins says she still believes she can win and that polls have been wrong before, notably about Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election.

The 40-year-old prime minister won the top job after the 2017 election when Labour formed an alliance with two other parties.

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The following year, she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office. 

2.56062127 The New Zealand National Party leader Judith Collins on the campaign trail.

She became a role model for working mothers around the world, many of whom saw her as a counterpoint to US president Donald Trump.

And she was praised for her handling of last year’s attack on two Christchurch mosques, when a white supremacist gunned down 51 Muslim worshippers.

She moved quickly to pass new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.

In late March this year, when only about 100 people had tested positive for Covid-19, Ardern and her health officials put New Zealand into a strict lockdown with a motto of “go hard and go early”.

She shut the borders and outlined an ambitious goal of eliminating the virus entirely rather than just trying to control its spread.

With New Zealand having the advantage of being an isolated island nation, the strategy worked.

New Zealand eliminated community transmission for 102 days before a new cluster was discovered in August in Auckland.

Ardern swiftly imposed a second lockdown in Auckland and the new outbreak faded away. The only new cases found recently have been among returning travellers, who are in quarantine.

The Auckland outbreak also prompted Ardern to postpone the election by a month and helped increase the early voter turnout.

Collins (61) is a former lawyer. She served as a minister when National was in power and prides herself on a blunt, no-nonsense approach, a contrast to Ardern’s empathetic style.

The challenger is promising sweeping tax cuts in response to the economic downturn caused by the virus.

In the election, voters also have a say on two contentious social issues – whether to legalise marijuana and euthanasia.

Polls indicate the euthanasia referendum is likely to pass, while the marijuana vote remains close.

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Press Association

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