PM & her lib­eral party win big in New Zealand elex

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY NICK PERRY

New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern won a sec­ond term in of­fice Sat­ur­day in an elec­tion land­slide of his­toric pro­por­tions.

With most votes counted, Ardern’s lib­eral Labour Party was win­ning 49% of the vote com­pared to 27% for its main chal­lenger, the con­ser­va­tive Na­tional Party.

Labour was on tar­get to win an out­right ma­jor­ity of the seats in Par­lia­ment, some­thing that hasn’t hap­pened since New Zealand im­ple­mented a pro­por­tional vot­ing sys­tem 24 years ago. Typ­i­cally, par­ties must form al­liances to gov­ern, but this time Ardern and Labour can go it alone.

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

“This has not been an or­di­nary elec­tion, and it’s not an or­di­nary time,” she said. “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 po­lar­ized 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.”

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

On the cam­paign trail, Ardern was greeted like a rock star by peo­ple who 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 5 mil­lion and peo­ple are no longer re­quired to wear masks or so­cial dis­tance.

Ardern, 40, won the top job af­ter the 2017 elec­tion when Labour formed an al­liance with two other par­ties. The fol­low­ing year, she be­came only the sec­ond world leader to give birth while in of­fice.

She be­came a role model for work­ing moth­ers around the world, many of whom saw her as a coun­ter­point to Pres­i­dent 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 semi­au­to­matic 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. The coun­try 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 trav­el­ers, who are in quar­an­tine.

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

The Na­tional Party’s leader, Ju­dith Collins, 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. Collins, 61, was promis­ing sweep­ing tax cuts in re­sponse to the eco­nomic down­turn caused by the virus.

In a speech to her sup­port­ers in Auck­land, Collins said she’d called Ardern to con­grat­u­late her.

“It is an out­stand­ing re­sult for the Labour Party,” Collins said. “It has been a tough cam­paign.”

Collins promised that the party would be back to fight another day.

The elec­tion also saw Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Peters and his small New Zealand First party voted out. The lib­er­tar­ian ACT Party in­creased its sup­port to 8% and the Green Party won 7.5% of the votes.

Labour Min­is­ter David Parker said it was a land­slide win for his party. “It’s a tremen­dous ac­co­lade first and fore­most to the prime min­is­ter, but also to the wider Labour team and the Labour move­ment,” he said.

MARK BAKER/AP

New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern re­joices in land­slide vic­tory Sat­ur­day. Her lib­eral party dom­i­nated the bal­lot­ing for Par­lia­ment as well.

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