Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern swept to an emphatic victory in New Zealand’s general election and said she would use her mandate to rebuild an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic and tackle social inequality.
“Over the next three years there is much work to do,” she told supporters Saturday night in Auckland. “We will build back better from the Covid crisis. We have the mandate to accelerate our response and our recovery.”
With 87% of the vote counted, Ardern’s Labour Party had 49% support -- heading to its biggest share of the vote since the 1930s -- after a huge swing to the left in many urban and provincial electorates. The opposition National Party slumped to 27%, its worst showing since 2002.
Ardern, 40, has captured the hallowed center ground in New Zealand politics with a blend of empathetic leadership and skilled crisis management that has also won her fame abroad. Her successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated those strengths, drowning out criticism that she hasn’t delivered on some key promises during her first term in office.
Ardern said she would govern for all New Zealanders and declined to say whether she would invite the Green Party into her government until final results were in. The Greens had 7.6% of the vote.
The landslide victory will give Ardern more scope to deliver the transformational government she promised when she came to power three years ago, particularly if the Greens push her to be more progressive on issues such as poverty and climate change. Still, she will be wary of alienating centrist voters with increased social spending at a time when debt is spiraling due to the government’s pandemic response.