WELLINGTON: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a landslide victory in New Zealand’s general election on Saturday, leveraging success battling Covid-19 into an unprecedented majority she said gave her a mandate for progressive reform.
Ardern’s centre-left Labour Party took 64 seats in the 120-member parliament with 49 percent of the vote, after the youthful and charismatic leader steered the nation through the upheaval wrought by the global pandemic.
“Thank you to the many people who gave us their vote, who trusted us to continue leading New Zealand’s recovery,” the 40-year-old told cheering supporters.
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 one of a string of emergencies that tested Ardern’s leadership during a torrid first term, after she rode to an unexpected victory in 2017 polls on the back of a wave of support dubbed “Jacinda-mania”.
She displayed both empathy and decisive action on gun control after a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosques attack last year.
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.
About 3.5 million people were registered to vote, with well over half casting their ballots early — a much higher figure than previous elections.
The vote was originally set for September 19 but was delayed by a virus outbreak in Auckland that has now been contained.—AFP