New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has gained global popularity in part due to the way she managed the coronavirus pandemic, cruised to victory on Saturday and easily won a second term. Ardern’s Labour Party won 49 percent of the vote, compared to 27 percent for its main challenger, the conservative National Party.
The huge victory means Ardern’s party is set to hold a majority of seats in Parliament, marking the first time there will be a purely left-leaning government in New Zealand in decades. No single party has enjoyed an outright majority in New Zealand’s Parliament since the country implemented proportional voting 24 years ago. But Labour is on track to do just that as it is projected to win 64 of the 120 seats. “Tonight, New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in at least 50 years,” Ardern said Saturday night. “And I can promise you: we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.”
The preliminary analysis of the results suggests New Zealand has enjoyed a significant swing to the left. Labour gained 12 points from the last election and the Green Party won 8 percent, a two-point increase from the last election. Ardern said that with the vote New Zealanders had shown they are different from much of the world. “We are living in an increasingly polarized world, a place where, more and more, people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view,” she said. “I think in this election, New Zealanders have shown that this is not who we are.”
Ardern, 40, has become hugely popular around the world, a novel prospect for the leader of a country that has roughly the same population as Louisiana. She gained a lot of worldwide attention when she had her first child while in office, and then was broadly praised for her response to the Christchurch terrorist attacks. Ardern was often talked abut as the counterpoint to President Donald Trump and in an editorial last year that praised Ardern’s response to terrorism, the New York Times editorial board declared that “America deserves a leader as good as Jacinda Ardern.” Despite that international popularity, some voters at home were disappointed by the lack of progress on key issues. But that all changed this year with the way her government successfully responded to the coronavirus pandemic and that popularity became evident at home as well. It was on display during the campaign, when Ardern was often greeted like a rock star.