With the majority of the votes counted, Ardern’s center-left Labor Party is expected to take 49 per cent of the vote, which would mean 64 of the 120 parliamentary seats and a solid majority.
But it would also carry the brunt of reviving New Zealand’s battered economy, hit by some of the world’s toughest pandemic blocking rules and travel bans that have devastated the critical tourism industry.
Ardern, 40, opened his speech at the Auckland City Hall with a greeting from Te Reo Maori, New Zealand̵
“Tonight, New Zealand has shown the greatest support from the Labor Party in at least 50 years,” she continued. “We will not take your support for granted and I promise you that we will be the party that rules every New Zealander.”
Unlike today’s “polarizing world,” Ardern is committed to “governing as we campaign: positively, optimistically for our future.”
Victory is expected
Ardern was expected to win the election. But the main unknown was how much.
The main opposition Labor party, the center-right National Party, is expected to win about 27 percent, or 35 seats, compared to 44 percent in the last election in 2017.
Earlier this year, before the pandemic, opinion polls showed Labor and national parties in close competition.
This was despite Ardern’s growing international fame and her handling of the massacres at the Christchurch Mosque, which claimed 51 lives and stunned a nation with low levels of gun crime. Ardern was applauded for her contact with the Muslim community in New Zealand and called for swift legislation to ban most attack-style firearms.
However, Ardern’s election prospects began to change in the months since the coronavirus took over the world.
Ardern concluded when the isolated state of 5 million had just over 100 cases of coronavirus. In the months since, New Zealand has officially reported less than 2,000 covid-19 deaths and 25 deaths among the lowest in the world.
These policies were not without painful consequences.
New Zealand is facing its worst recession in decades, largely due to the government’s harsh response. The suspension, mixed with existing immigration policies, has also left migrant workers at a dead end outside the country and divided families with mixed ethnic groups, although authorities have prepared repatriation arrangements.
Still, Ardern’s rivals in the National Party appear to have failed to convince a majority of voters that their more conservative economic policies would be preferable.
The shadow of China
Ardern is also facing a second term in which growing tensions with China are widespread, including Ardern’s allegations of Beijing’s interference in New Zealand’s affairs.
New Zealand backed Taiwan’s bid for a role in the World Health Organization in May and backed calls to investigate the cause of the new coronavirus pandemic, which was first discovered in Wuhan, China.
In a July speech to the Chinese business community, Ardern emphasized the government’s “principled approach to our foreign policy” on issues including Hong Kong and violations of rights against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Later that month, New Zealand terminated its extradition agreement with Hong Kong following the imposition of a Beijing-backed national security law that sharply curtailed political dissent.
Ardern has repeatedly stated that New Zealand seeks to diversify trade relations away from China. But New Zealand’s tourism, agriculture and education sectors remain heavily dependent on China.
The motto “Be kind”
When elected in 2017, Ardern, then 37, was the youngest living leader in the country. She gave birth a year later, becoming only the second world leader to do so while in office. Since then, she has been known as a role model for working mothers.
The brand of Ardern’s compassionate policy – “be kind,” became her catchphrase during the pandemic – was in stark contrast to President Trump’s polarizing approach, with which she occasionally fucks.
She is also a strong advocate of international cooperation on issues such as climate change, with supporters calling her “anti-Trump.”
The final results and the subsequent distribution of parliamentary seats will not be published for three weeks to allow time for special ballots, such as New Zealanders living abroad.
Similarly, the results of the referendum questions on the legalization of recreational cannabis use and “assisted deaths” will not be published in the bulletin for two weeks.
This year, about 1.9 million people, or about half of the voters, voted in an early vote that began on October 3rd.
New Zealand adopted its proportional voting structure in 1996. Coalition governments are the norm there and no party has won a majority in 24 years.
Berger reports from Washington.