Land­slide win for Ardern in New Zealand’s ‘Covid elec­tion’

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - THE NA­TIONAL

New Zealan­ders yes­ter­day handed Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern’s Labour party a rare land­slide win in what is seen as an en­dorse­ment of her han­dling of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic and other na­tional crises.

Ms Ardern’s cen­tre- left party took 64 seats in the 120- mem­ber par­lia­ment with 49 per cent of the vote in what she had de­scribed as the “Covid elec­tion”.

“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 prime min­is­ter told cheer­ing sup­port­ers.

It was the first time any leader won an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity since New Zealand adopted a pro­por­tional vot­ing sys­tem in 1996.

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern won a sec­ond term in of­fice on a land­slide vote in New Zealand’s gen­eral elec­tion yes­ter­day.

The man­date meant that Ms Ardern, 40, could form New Zealand’s first sin­gle- party govern­ment in decades and work on the pro­gres­sive man­i­festo she promised but failed to de­liver in her first term, where Labour shared power with a na­tion­al­ist party.

Ms Ardern said the land­slide vote gave her party a man­date to ac­cel­er­ate her govern­ment’s re­sponse and re­cov­ery plans for the coro­n­avirus.

“We are liv­ing in an in­creas­ingly po­larised world, a place where 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,” she said. “Elec­tions aren’t al­ways great at bring­ing peo­ple to­gether, but they also don’t need to tear one an­other apart.”

The re­sult, the best for Labour in decades, rep­re­sented a his­toric shift, ac­cord­ing to po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Bryce Ed­wards of Vic­to­ria Univer­sity in Welling­ton.

He de­scribed the vote as one of the big­gest swings in 80 years.

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.

If Labour wins more than half the seats, Ms Ardern could form the first sin­gle-party govern­ment un­der the cur­rent sys­tem.

Ms Ardern came out of her home in Auck­land, waved and hugged sup­port­ers.

Ge­of­frey Miller, an an­a­lyst at po­lit­i­cal web­site Democ­racy Project, said the vic­tory was “very much a per­sonal tri­umph for Jacinda Ardern’s ‘ su­per­star’ pop­u­lar­ity and brand”.

Of Labour’s cur­rent coali­tion part­ners, the na­tion­al­ist New Zealand First Party had 2.6 per cent and the Green Party 7.6 per cent.

If Ms Ardern is un­able to form a Labour-only govern­ment, she was ex­pected to con­tinue to rely on the mi­nor Greens while jet­ti­son­ing New Zealand First.

A Labour- Green coali­tion would be the first fully left-lean­ing govern­ment since the 1970s, a sce­nario that the op­po­si­tion Na­tional Party’s Ju­dith Collins claimed would mean more taxes and an en­vi­ron­ment hos­tile to busi­ness.

Ms Ardern has pledged to raise taxes on New Zealand’s high­est earn­ers, while Ms Collins promised short-term tax cuts, but they have oth­er­wise shown few ma­jor dif­fer­ences on pol­icy.

The prime min­is­ter won global ac­claim for her han­dling of a mass shoot­ing last year by a white su­prem­a­cist in Christchur­ch, with her in­clu­sive “be strong, be kind” mantra and swift ban on guns.

New Zealan­ders also voted yes­ter­day in ref­er­en­dums to le­galise eu­thana­sia and recre­ational mar­i­juana, with re­sults to be an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 30.

The lat­ter vote could make New Zealand the third coun­try in the world to al­low the adult use and sale of cannabis na­tion­wide, af­ter Uruguay and Canada.

One po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst said the vote in favour of Labour was also a vote in favour of the Jacinda Ardern brand of pol­i­tics

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