Auckland: On Saturday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a second term in office in an election landslide of historic proportions, international media reported.
With most votes counted, Ardern’s liberal Labour Party was winning 49% of the vote compared to 27% for its main challenger, the conservative National Party.
According to a report by international news agency AFP, 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,” AFP quoted Collins telling cheering supporters in Auckland.
The report said that Collins’s National Party was expected to take around 35 seats in what appears to be its worst result in nearly 20 years.
On the other hand, Ardern’s performance beat pre-election opinion polls and put Labour on course for its strongest showing since 1946.
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, the news agency reported.
“There’s no doubt the strong, great leadership we’ve had from Jacinda Ardern has been a massive factor in all this,” she told NZ, according to the report.
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.
However, she also faced criticism during her first term for failing to deliver on some key promises such as improving housing affordability and countering child poverty.
Greens co-leader Marama Davidson, whose party governed in coalition with Labour during the first term, said the prime minister now had a mandate to implement change.
“I want to congratulate Jacinda Ardern and her team on an extraordinary win,” the report quoted her as saying. “The results show how much New Zealanders want a strong, truly progressive government.”