Ardern's party seizes big lead in New Zealand election initial returns

Cheryl Sanders
October 17, 2020

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party overwhelmingly won the country's general election on Saturday, her opponent Judith Collins said.

Speaking to a jubilant crowd at the Auckland Town Hall after the extent of Labour's rout became clear, Ardern thanked the party's candidates, volunteers, and those who had supported the party for the first time - "and the results tell me there were a few of you".

Labour had 50.3% of the votes, to 25.9% for the opposition National Party with 7% of ballots tallied, according to the Electoral Commission.

"I say to everybody: we will be back".

© 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.

The preliminary count also shows a major swing to the left, with Labour picking up a significant boost on last election's 37%, while its current coalition partner the Green Party won 8% - or 10 seats - up on last election's 6%.

Ms Ardern described her party's election results as strong following Ms Collins' concession, and said Labour would lead the Government for the next three years.

Ardern later addressed her supporters from a stage at party headquarters, opening her speech in Maori before switching to English.

In late March this year, when only about 100 people had tested positive for Covid-19, Ms Ardern and her health officials put New Zealand into a strict lockdownwith a motto of "go hard and go early".

Her party has been campaigning wit the slogan "Let's keep moving" as they talked up the government's record at being one of the most successful countries for tackling the pandemic.

As one party leaves Parliament, another appears set to return, with the Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi leading Labour incumbent Tamati Coffey by around 400 votes in the Waiariki electorate. 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. "Which has been an outstanding result".

Still, the outlook remains bleak over the medium term, with the country's biggest foreign exchange earner - tourism - hobbled by a border that is nearly entirely closed except to returning New Zealanders.

The following year, Ms Ardern became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.

Two referendums were also held alongside the election on whether cannabis and euthanasia should be legalized.

Although once famously declaring that as kingmaker he was not seeking the "baubles of office", he has been deputy prime minister twice, filled in as acting prime minister and was known on the global stage from serving as foreign minister from 1996-98 and with the Ardern government.

She displayed both empathy and decisive action on gun control after a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosques attack previous 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. "This is our opportunity to take on poverty and inequality".

Ardern looks set to face another tough term ahead, as she attempts to address those issues while steering the country through the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Other reports by iNewsToday