Ardern wins ‘his­toric’ NZ re-elec­tion

Gulf Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern de­liv­ered the big­gest elec­tion vic­tory for her cen­tre-left Labour Party in half a cen­tury yes­ter­day as vot­ers re­warded her for a de­ci­sive re­sponse to Covid-19. The man­date means Ardern, 40, could form the first sin­gle-party govern­ment in decades. Labour was on track to win 64 of the 120 seats in the coun­try’s uni­cam­eral par­lia­ment, the high­est by any party since New Zealand adopted a pro­por­tional vot­ing sys­tem in 1996. Ardern promised sup­port­ers she would build an econ­omy that works for ev­ery­one.

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern won a land­slide vic­tory in New Zealand’s gen­eral elec­tion yes­ter­day, lever­ag­ing suc­cess bat­tling Covid-19 into an un­prece­dented ma­jor­ity she said gave her a man­date for pro­gres­sive re­form.

Ardern’s cen­tre-left Labour Party took 64 seats in the 120-mem­ber par­lia­ment with 49% of the vote, af­ter the youth­ful and charis­matic leader steered the na­tion through the up­heaval wrought by the global pan­demic.

“Thank you to the many peo­ple who gave us their vote, who trusted us to con­tinue lead­ing New Zealand’s re­cov­ery,” the 40-year-old told cheer­ing sup­port­ers.

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 one of a string of emer­gen­cies that tested Ardern’s lead­er­ship dur­ing a tor­rid first term, af­ter she rode to an un­ex­pected vic­tory in 2017 polls on the back of a wave of sup­port dubbed “Jacinda-ma­nia”. She dis­played both em­pa­thy and de­ci­sive ac­tion on gun con­trol af­ter a white su­prem­a­cist gun­man killed 51 Mus­lim wor­ship­pers in the Christchur­ch mosques at­tack last year.

Ardern again found her­self com­fort­ing a shocked na­tion when a vol­canic erup­tion at White Is­land, also known as Whakaari, killed 21 peo­ple and left dozens more with hor­rific burns.

“There’s no doubt the strong, great lead­er­ship we’ve had from Jacinda Ardern has been a mas­sive factor in all this,” Labour Party pres­i­dent Claire Sz­abo said of her party’s win on broad­caster TVNZ.

Yes­ter­day’s vote marked the first time any leader won an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity since New Zealand adopted a pro­por­tional vot­ing sys­tem in 1996 and was the party’s strong­est show­ing since World War II. Op­po­si­tion leader Ju­dith Collins con­ceded an “out­stand­ing re­sult” for Labour and con­grat­u­lated Ardern on her win.

“Boy, we knew it was go­ing to be a tough cam­paign,” said Collins, whose con­ser­va­tive Na­tional Party is ex­pected to take around 35 seats af­ter its worst re­sult in nearly 20 years.

Ardern was crit­i­cised dur­ing her first term for fail­ing to de­liver on some key prom­ises such as im­prov­ing hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity, pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and re­duc­ing child poverty.

But she said the elec­tion had set her up for an ac­tive sec­ond term.

“We have the man­date to ac­cel­er­ate our re­sponse and our re­cov­ery – and to­mor­row we start!” she said, flag­ging in­creased state hous­ing, more re­new­able en­ergy and other in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment.

Greens co-leader Marama David­son, whose party gov­erned in coali­tion with Labour dur­ing the first term, said the vote “show how much New Zealan­ders want a strong, truly pro­gres­sive govern­ment.”

About 3.5mn peo­ple were reg­is­tered to vote, with well over half cast­ing their bal­lots early – a much higher figure than pre­vi­ous elec­tions.

The vote was orig­i­nally set for Septem­ber 19 but was de­layed by a virus out­break in Auck­land that has now been con­tained.

Collins, who took over the Na­tional Party in July af­ter a pe­riod of tur­moil when the party had three lead­ers in three months, said the false start had cost her cam­paign mo­men­tum.

Her pitch for the top job had fo­cused on the spec­tre of the Greens forc­ing Ardern to adopt a wealth tax aimed at the na­tion’s as­pi­ra­tional mid­dle class.

The con­ser­va­tive leader, known as “Crusher” for her hard­line poli­cies when po­lice min­is­ter in a pre­vi­ous govern­ment, has vowed to stay on as leader re­gard­less of the re­sult.

Vot­ers also cast bal­lots in two ref­er­en­dums, to le­galise re­cre­ational cannabis and eu­thana­sia, although the re­sults of those votes will not be known un­til Oc­to­ber 30.

Sup­port­ers cheer as they watch the re­sults come in for the gen­eral elec­tion be­tween in­cum­bent Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern and chal­lenger Ju­dith Collins dur­ing the New Zealand Labour Party elec­tion night event in Auck­land.

New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern speaks at the Labour Party elec­tion night event as she claims vic­tory in the gen­eral elec­tion, in Auck­land, yes­ter­day.

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