Mark Baker / AP
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won re-election in landslides.
The victory was not surprising; Arden’s management has helped New Zealand become one of the most successful countries in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. When entering the election, polls showed the Ardennes Labor Party with a broad lead over its closest competitor, the Conservative National Party.
With the most votes counted, the Ardennes Liberal Labor Party has won 49%. It’s the best show for the Labor Party in at least 50 years. It is also the highest result for any party since the country switched to a proportional representation system in 1996.
The Labor Party was expected to win 64 seats in the 120-seat parliament, giving it the opportunity to govern without the coalition building that typically characterizes proportional representation. With 27 percent of the vote, the National Party took 35 seats; the libertarian ACT New Zealand and the left-wing Green Party each took 10 seats; and the Maori Party – a center-left party focusing on original rights – secured a seat.
It remains to be seen how strongly Ardern and her Labor Party will move to adopt progressive policies. In her victory speech, Ardern acknowledged that while her party has “a very strong and a very clear mandate”, she promised to be a voice for all New Zealanders.
“We live in an increasingly polarized world,” the 40-year-old Ardern told hundreds of cheering supporters. “A place where more and more people have lost the ability to see each other’s point of view. I hope this election, New Zealand, has shown that this is not who we are. That we as a nation can listen and we can discuss. After all, we are too small to lose sight of others. “
“Elections are not always good at bringing people together,” Ardern added. “But they don’t have to tear each other to pieces either. And in times of crisis, I think New Zealand have shown it.”
The victory of Labor marked a major defeat for the National Party, which lost 21 seats. “We will take the time to reflect and we will review and we will change,” said party leader Judith Collins. “National will from this loss regain a stronger, more disciplined and more connected party.”
Other items on the vote included two major referendums, reflecting extensive social changes in the island nation of 5 million. Recreational cannabis would be legalized – the first apparent effort by any country to hold a national referendum on whether marijuana should be okayed without a medical purpose.
Preliminary results will not be released until the end of the month, but if the measure is overturned, New Zealand will join Canada, Georgia, South Africa and Uruguay on the list of countries that have legal pot consumption at national level. Parliament will still have to approve the measure.
The second referendum asks whether New Zealanders support the law of end-of-life elections. The action passed by parliament in 2019 legalizes euthanasia for those who have terminal illnesses, have less than six months to live and live out “unbearable” suffering. It enters into force only if it is approved by a majority of voters.