AUCKLAND, New Zealand – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a second term on Saturday as a result of a landslide choice of historic proportions.
With the majority of votes counted, the liberal Labor Party of Arderna received 49% of the vote against 27% of the main contender – the Conservative National Party.
Labor aimed to win an absolute majority of seats in parliament, which has not happened since New Zealand introduced proportional voting 24 years ago. As a rule, parties must form alliances for governance, but this time Ardern and Labor can go on their own.
In a speech to victory in front of hundreds of supporters in Auckland, Ardern said her party had received more support from New Zealanders than at any time in at least 50 years.
“It was not an ordinary election, and it is not an ordinary time,”; she said. “It was full of uncertainty and anxiety, and we sought to be the antidote to it.”
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Ardern promised not to take her new supporters for granted and to lead all New Zealanders.
“We live in an increasingly polarized world, where more and more people are losing the ability to see each other’s perspectives,” she said. “I think in this election, New Zealanders have shown that we are not who we are.”
Two weeks before the election, a record number of voters voted early.
On the campaign trail, Arderna was greeted like a rock star by people who crashed into malls and poured into the streets to cheer her up and take selfies with her.
Its popularity grew earlier this year after successful efforts to combat the coronavirus. Currently, in a country of 5 million, there is no spread of the virus in the community, and people are no longer required to wear masks or social distance.
Ardern, 40, won the top post since the 2017 election, when Labor allied with two other parties. The following year, she became only the second world leader to have a child while in office.
She has become a role model for working mothers around the world, many of whom have seen her as a counterpoint to President Donald Trump. And she was praised for carrying out two attacks on two Christchurch mosques last year, when white rulers shot down 51 Muslim supporters.
It quickly moved to new laws banning lethal types of semi-automatic weapons.
At the end of March this year, when only about 100 people tested positive for COVID-19, Ardern and her health officials put New Zealand in a strict blockade with the motto “Go hard and go earlier.” She closed the borders and outlined an ambitious goal to completely eradicate the virus, not just try to control its spread.
Because New Zealand preferred to be an isolated island nation, the strategy worked. The country liquidated the community transfer 102 days before a new cluster was discovered in Auckland in August. Ardern quickly imposed a second lock in Auckland, and the new outbreak disappeared. The only new cases that have recently been identified have been returning quarantined trips.
The Auckland outbreak also prompted Ardern to postpone the election for a month and helped increase early voter turnout.
National Party leader Judith Collins is a former lawyer. She served as a minister when National was in power, and boasts a rude, senseless approach, in contrast to Ardern’s empathetic style. Collins, 61, has promised significant tax cuts in response to the economic downturn caused by the virus.
In a speech to her supporters in Auckland, Collins said she called Arderna to greet her.
“This is an outstanding result for the Labor Party,” Collins said. “It was a tough campaign.”
Collins promised that the party would return to the fight one more day.
Vice Prime Minister Winston Peters and his small party, New Zealand, also voted in the election. The Libertarian ACT party increased its support to 8%, while the Green Party received 7.5% of the vote.
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Labor Minister David Parker said it was a landslide victory for his party. “This is an extraordinary recognition, first and foremost, for the prime minister, as well as for the wider Labor group and the Labor movement,” he said.
In the election, voters also spoke on two controversial social issues – whether to legalize marijuana and euthanasia. Pre-election polls indicated that a referendum on euthanasia was likely to take place, while the outcome of the marijuana vote remained uncertain. The results of both referendums will be announced on October 30.