New Zealand voted to award Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a second term in office on Saturday. Prime Minister Ardern’s liberal Labour Party won a historic mandate by securing 49 percent of the vote in comparison to the 27 percent bagged by its primary challenger, the conservative National Party.
In fact, this is the first time since New Zealand implemented a proportional voting system 24 years ago that a single party (Labour) won an outright majority of seats in Parliament. Jacinda Ardern was voted to the top job in 2017 when her Labour Party entered into an alliance with two other parties.
This time around, the Labour Party will be able to comfortable form a government on its own, a first for the party in 50 years. Its ally Green Party won 7.5 percent of the voters while the libertarian ACT Party managed to increase its vote share to 8 percent this time around. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and his New Zealand First party was voted out.
During the 2020 elections, New Zealanders also voted on two key issues- whether to legalise marijuana and euthanasia. Results of both referendums will be announced on October 30.
We set out to be an antidote to uncertainty: Jacinda Ardern
Addressing supporters in Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in her victory speech, “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.”
Associated Press quoted Ardern as saying, “We are living in an increasingly polarized world, a place where, more and more, people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view. I think in this election, New Zealanders have shown that this is not who we are.”
While on the campaign trail, Jacinda Ardern (40) was greeted by cheering supporters across New Zealand in what is being termed as ‘Jacinda-mania’. She won praise for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Christchurch shooting, and a volcanic eruption at White Island among other key issues. Her empathetic approach to issues and connect with voters is being cited as the reason for her party’s landslide electoral victory.
Only the second world leader to have given birth while in office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did face criticism during her first term for shortfalls in improving housing affordability and battling child poverty.
However, her management of the Covid-19 outbreak which has now insulated the island nation of five million from the virus was at the forefront of her poll agenda.
Elections in New Zealand were originally scheduled for September but had to be postponed by a month owing to the discovery of a virus cluster in Auckland last month.
Challenger congratulates Labour on ‘outstanding win’
Prime Minister Ardern’s challenger Judith Collins of the National Party is a former lawyer. She served as a minister when the National Party was in power. Collins (61) had promised New Zealanders considerable tax cuts if voted to power.
In a speech in Auckland on Saturday, Judith Collins congratulated Ardern and her Labour Party for an “outstanding result”.
(With inputs from Associated Press)