Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a landslide victory in New Zealand’s general election on Saturday Oct. 17.
With just two-thirds of the vote counted, Ardern’s centre-left Labour Party was on 49.2 per cent and forecast to take around 64 seats in the 120-member parliament.
This is a feat as no leader has achieved an absolute majority since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996, leading to a succession of multi-party governments.
Ardern’s performance beat pre-election opinion polls and put Labour on course for its strongest showing since 1946.
While the count has not been finalised, the figures were enough for opposition leader Judith Collins to concede after phoning Ardern.
“Congratulations on your result because it is, I believe, an outstanding result for the Labour Party. It has been a tough campaign,” Collins told cheering supporters in Auckland.
Her conservative National Party was expected to take around 35 seats.
It appears to be its worst result in nearly 20 years.
Party president Claire Szabo praised the campaign of the charismatic leader.
Ardern sparked a wave of support dubbed “Jacinda-mania” when she took over the party in 2017 as it was languishing in the polls.
Ardern had dubbed the vote “the Covid election”.
Leveraging the success battling Covid-19, she campaigned on her government’s ability in eliminating community transmission of the virus, which has caused just 25 deaths in a population of five million.
Prior to the pandemic, Ardern found herself dealing with multiple crises during her tenure.
The nation was shocked again in 2019 when a volcanic eruption at White Island, also known as Whakaari, killed 21 people and left dozens more with horrific burns.
About 3.5 million people are registered to vote, with 1.9 million, or well over half, casting their ballots early.
This was a much higher figure than previous elections.
The vote was originally set for Sep. 19 but was delayed by a virus outbreak in Auckland that has now been contained.
Voters also cast ballots in two referendums, one on legalising recreational cannabis and the other on legalising euthanasia.
The results of those votes will not be known until Oct. 30.