New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a second term in office on Saturday, delivering the biggest election victory for her centre-left Labour Party in half a century as voters rewarded her for a decisive response to COVID-19.
The win is also the reward for Ardern’s leadership through a series of extraordinary events that shaped her first three-year term: the gunman’s massacre of 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques and the eruption of the White Island volcano, which killed 21.
With most votes counted, Ardern’s Labour Party was winning 49 percent of the vote compared with 27 percent for its main challenger, the conservative National Party. 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.
The mandate means Ardern, 40, could form the first single-party government in decades.
In a victory speech in front of hundreds of cheering supporters in Auckland, Ardern said she would build an economy that works for everyone, create jobs, train people, protect the environment and address climate challenges and social inequalities.
“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 polarised 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.”
The prime minister added that said she would wait until the final result to say if her government would include smaller groups like the Green Party, a former coalition partner that secured a bigger 8 percent mandate.
Opposition National Party leader Judith Collins said she congratulated the prime minister for an “outstanding result”.