Auckland: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a landslide victory in New Zealand's general election on Saturday, leveraging success battling Covid-19 to gain an unprecedented outright majority and the chance to implement her reform agenda. With two thirds of the vote counted, Ardern's centre-left Labour Party was on 49.2 per cent and forecast to take around 64 seats in the 120-member parliament.
No leader has achieved an absolute majority since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996, leading to a succession of multi-party governments.
While the count has not been finalised, the figures were enough for opposition leader Judith Collins to concede after phoning Ardern. “Congratulations on your result because it is, I believe, an outstanding result for the Labour Party. It has been a tough campaign,” Collins told cheering supporters in Auckland.
Party president Claire Szabo praised the campaign of the charismatic leader, who sparked a wave of support dubbed "Jacinda-mania" when she took over the party in 2017 as it was languishing in the polls. “There's no doubt the strong, great leadership we've had from Jacinda Ardern has been a massive factor in all this,” she said.
Ardern had dubbed the vote "the Covid election" and campaigned on her government's success in eliminating community transmission of the virus, which has caused just 25 deaths in a population of five million. The pandemic is just one of a string of crises that showed Ardern's leadership qualities during a torrid first term.