PM Ardern on track for landslide re-election win in New Zealand vote

Clay Curtis
October 17, 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a landslide victory in New Zealand's general election Saturday, leveraging success battling Covid-19 to gain an unprecedented outright majority and the chance to implement her reform agenda.

According to the Election Commission of New Zealand, Ardern's Labour Party are on 49% of the vote, while the National Party are expected to win 27% with the ACT New Zealand and Green parties both on 8%.

© Mark Coote/Bloomberg via Getty Images Labour Party supporters watch results come in and wait for Jacinda Ardern to arrive during an election night event at Auckland Town Hall in Auckland, New Zealand, on October 17, 2020.

"New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in nearly 50 years", Ardern told supporters after the result became clear.

But the story of the night was the dominance of Ardern's party, exemplified not just by its party vote but the number of electorates it managed to tip red after decades of National control. "And I can promise you we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander", she said.

The opposition National Party was on 25.7%, or 33 seats, and appears headed for its worst result in almost 20 years.

She burnished that reputation this year with a "go hard, go early" approach to the new coronavirus, which has eliminated locally spread COVID-19 in the nation. "She also really emphasized that unity message, and said she was aware that many voters had voted Labour for the first time". NZ First are out of Parliament with just 2.6% of the vote.

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.

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The country went without any new cases for 102 days until August, when a small outbreak in the largest city Auckland resulted in rules being reimposed. Collins, the combative leader of the centre-right National Party, has focused on the spectre of the Greens forcing Ardern to adopt a wealth tax aimed squarely at New Zealand's aspirational middle class.

Despite what appeared to be a devastating result for New Zealand First, Peters was inscrutable as ever in a short speech which did not concede defeat and arguably suggested he was willing to continue his long crusade from the political wilderness. The preliminary results of those will be released at the end of this month. The following year, she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.

The prime minister won global acclaim for her handling of a mass shooting past year by a white supremacist in Christchurch, with her inclusive "be strong, be kind" mantra and swift action to ban guns.

On the campaign trail, Ms Ardern has been greeted like a rock star by people who have crammed into shopping malls and spilled onto streets to cheer her on and get selfies with her.

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.

In the election, voters also have a say on two contentious social issues - whether to legalize marijuana and euthanasia.

But while she promised to lead a government of "transformation", her critics argue she hasn't done enough to address inequality, child poverty, climate change and the housing market.

She said there was much work to do, but the country will build back better after the Covid crisis.

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