World reacts to huge Labour, Jacinda Ardern victory

  • World reacts to huge Labour, Jacinda Ardern victory

World reacts to huge Labour, Jacinda Ardern victory

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered the biggest election victory for her center-left Labour Party in half a century on Saturday as voters rewarded her for decisive leadership in recent months.

New Zealand-based journalist Samantha Early told DW that Ardern had promised Labour would not take new supporters for granted.

"We will govern as we campaigned: positively with optimism about our future", Ardern said.

I'm not suggesting that Jacinda Ardern is a closet Muldoon, or that Grant Robertson is going to take a wrecking ball to the government apparatus and superstructure of the economy like Roger Douglas. But the main unknown was by how much.

At the start of the year, before the pandemic, polls showed the Labor and National parties in a tight race. And she was praised for her handling of last year's attack on two Christchurch mosques, when a white supremacist gunned down 51 Muslim worshippers. As at yesterday, the country of about five million residents recorded 1,883 cases and just 25 deaths.

New Zealand's quarter-on-quarter gross domestic product shrank by 12.2% in the three months to June, more than the OECD average. The shutdowns, mixed with preexisting immigration policies, have also left migrant workers stranded outside the country and divided mixed-national families, although repatriation arrangements have been prepared by authorities.

National Party leader Judith Collins conceded defeat.

Ardern also faces a second term in which rising tensions with China loom large, including Ardern's claims of Beijing interference in New Zealand's affairs.

In late March this year, when only about 100 people had tested positive for the coronavirus, Ardern and her health officials put New Zealand into a strict lockdown with a motto of "Go hard and go early".

Ardern has repeatedly indicated that New Zealand is looking to diversify trade relationships away from China.

"Tonight's result does give Labour a very strong and very clear mandate".

She became a role model for working mothers around the world, many of whom saw her as a counterpoint to President Donald Trump. She served as a minister when National was in power and prides herself on a blunt, no-nonsense approach, a contrast to Ardern's empathetic style.

She has also been a strong advocate for worldwide cooperation around issues like climate change, with supporters dubbing her "the anti-Trump" as a result.

New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, now has no community cases of COVID-19 and has been among only a few nations where people are not required to wear masks or follow social distancing.

In the election, voters also had a say on two contentious social issues - whether to legalize marijuana and euthanasia. A day before the election, nearly 2 million people had already cast their vote, representing more than 60% of the total number of votes cast in the 2017 general election.

New Zealand adopted its current proportional voting structure in 1996. If she is unable to form a Labour-only government, she is expected to continue to rely on the minor Greens while jettisoning New Zealand First.

Berger reported from Washington.