New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has secured a second term after her party won over half of parliament seats in the general election.
With over 90 percent of ballots counted, Ardern’s liberal Labour Party has won 49 percent of votes and is projected to control 64 seats in the 120-seat legislature, up from the 46 seats it has held. The opposition conservative National Party scored 27 percent of votes and is down to 35 seats from the 54 it secured in the previous general election.
National Party leader Judith Collins has called Ardern to congratulate her on the victory and promised to offer “a robust opposition” to the prime minister’s second-term government.
Ardern later addressed her supporters from a stage at party HQ, opening her speech in Maori before switching to English. She thanked New Zealanders for showing the greatest support the party has seen in “at least 50 years” and for backing her government’s plan for economic recovery.
“We will govern as we campaigned: positively with optimism about our future,” Ardern said. “Now more than ever is the time to keep going, to keep working, to grab hold of the opportunities that lay in front of us.”
Ardern solidified her popularity at home with a successful response to Covid-19, which kept New Zealand relatively unharmed by the coronavirus, with only 1,883 cases and 25 deaths recorded. Her government managed to stop the communal spread of the disease in March with a strict lockdown and extensive testing, and similarly curbed a new outbreak in August.
Last year she won praise for her handling of the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history, the Christchurch mosques shooting. She also moved to ban the types of firearms with most lethal potential and imposed stricter controls over legally owned weapons.
The outcome of the election allows Labour to form a new government on its own, but political analysts say it may keep its alliance with the Green party, which is on course to win 10 seats.
The nationalist party New Zealand First, another partner in the Labour-led coalition, has performed poorly, losing all its seats. The libertarian ACT New Zealand has gained popularity and is set to win 10 seats, a major increase from the one it currently has.
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