With 87% of the votes counted, Ardern’s center-left Labor Party won 48.9% of the vote, meaning his party looks likely to achieve the highest result of any party since the introduction of the current political system in 1996.
“Tonight New Zealand has shown the Labor Party its biggest support in at least 50 years,” Ardern said in a powerful victory speech on Saturday evening when she spoke of the difficult times ahead for New Zealand. “And I can promise you: we’ll be a governing party for every New Zealander. ”
Coalitions are the norm in New Zealand, where no party has ever won a majority of votes under the current system.
The main Labor opposition, the center-right National Party, is at 27% – down from 44% in the last election and possibly the party’s worst result since 2002.
Results are always counted. The final results will be released in three weeks after the special votes – including those cast by New Zealanders living abroad – are counted.
The preliminary tally also shows a major shift to the left, with Labor taking a significant boost on 37% in the last election, while its current coalition partner, the Green Party, sits with 7.6%, up from 6 , 3% in the last elections.
Labor hovered around 50% of the vote for much of election night. It probably won’t be clear until the final results are on whether Labor can govern alone or will need to form a coalition with the Greens, but ahead of the election, Claire Timperley, professor of politics at the University of Victoria, said discuss collaboration with the Greens, even though Labor won an absolute majority.
Labor’s other current coalition partner, New Zealand First, failed to win enough votes to return to parliament, while right-wing ACT is currently at 8%, down from 0.5% in the last election.
Ardern’s likely re-election was bolstered by his ‘go strong, go early’ approach to dealing with the coronavirus, which has helped New Zealand avoid the type of devastating outbreaks seen elsewhere. The country was one of the first to close its borders and Ardern announced a nationwide lockdown in March when it had just 102 cases.
New Zealand has reported less than 2,000 total cases and 25 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Earlier this year, polls suggested National and Labor could be in a close election. Ardern had enormous international popularity, but some here at home have been disappointed by its lack of progress on key promises, including on tackling the overheating housing market.
But everything changed during the pandemic. Support for Ardern skyrocketed, even as New Zealand posted its biggest quarterly economic decline on record and a second outbreak in the country’s largest city, Auckland, prompted the PM to delay elections a month.
National’s Collins – the party’s third leader this year – touted his pro-business party as being better positioned to handle the economic fallout from the pandemic, but struggled to gain ground against one of the most popular leaders in New Zealand.
“We always knew it was going to be tough, didn’t we? Collins said during his concession speech Saturday. “We will take the time to think, and we will examine, and we will change. National will rise from this loss as a stronger, more disciplined and more connected party.
“I tell everyone: we will be back. “
Register early participation
Just under 2 million people – or 57% of all registered voters – as of Friday had already voted in voting booths across the country, including Collins and Ardern.
Lara Greaves, New Zealand politics professor at the University of Auckland, said the high level of advance polling may be linked to Covid-19 – voters wanted to avoid the lines and the possibility of a new outbreak of Covid-19 could impact their ability to vote on the same day.
She said the turnout could also have been boosted by two referendums running parallel to the elections – one on the legalization of euthanasia and the other on the legalization of the recreational use of cannabis. The preliminary results of these will be published at the end of this month.
What to expect from a second term Ardern
When Ardern became Prime Minister in 2017 at the age of 37, she was New Zealand’s third female leader and one of the youngest female leaders in the world. Within a year, she had given birth to power – only the second world leader to do so.
She was also praised for her empathetic handling of major crises. After the 2019 terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch that left 51 people dead, she introduced swift changes in gun law and donned a hijab when she met the local Muslim community.
After the eruption of White Island, an active volcanic island frequented by tourists, last December killing 21 people, Ardern was quickly on the ground again, hugging first responders.
But while she has vowed to lead a “transformative” government, her critics argue that she has not done enough to tackle inequality, child poverty, climate change and the housing market.
Ardern looks set to face another difficult term as she attempts to address these issues while guiding the country through the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. But political analysts don’t expect flashy flagship policies – instead, they predict that Ardern will continue to make incremental changes.
“Real change requires measures that bring people with us,” Ardern said during the country’s last election debate on Thursday. “I’m maintaining my record… I haven’t finished yet. “