The New Zealand Labour Party under leader Jacinda Ardern looks set to win another three-year term in government as early votes are tallied.
So far 40.4 percent of the votes have been returned, with the incumbent Prime Minister and Mt Albert MP leading by a landslide 12,832 votes.
Importantly, the Labour Party also looks on track to win 50 percent of the vote which would enable them to lead free from a coalition. That is being translated as 66 seats, five more than the 61 needed to hold a majority in the House of Representatives.
Labour’s core policy manifesto includes the promise to invest in people, jobs, small businesses, infrastructure, global trade and to broadly set New Zealand up for the best COVID recovery possible. It also includes greater action on climate change as well as legalising recreational cannabis and the right to die.
It’s been a mammoth first term for Ardern, who’s not only seen through 2020’s pandemic, but also a major terrorist attack in Christchurch and a volcano eruption at White Island in 2019.
She’s been touted by many, including the World Health Organisation, as one of the most forward-thinking and pragmatic leaders during COVID-19, with fewer than 2,000 COVID infections in New Zealand and only 25 deaths. Despite obvious pressure, Ardern has looked unflappable; a trait which has gained her widespread support, even among those who would typically vote National.
The Nationals had hoped for an upset which would allow them to form government with the help of the libertarian ACT Party, but leader Judith Collins has been candid about the challenge she faced against the “Ardern effect”.
“I’m very aware that I’m not going to be able to come out, and ‘out-Jacinda’ Jacinda Ardern,” she said. “I can be someone [with] a very wicked and naughty sense of humour and it sometimes gets me into trouble. Actually, quite a lot it gets me into trouble.”
While we won’t know the full results till later tonight or tomorrow morning, Labour supporters are gathering outside the town hall to celebrate. Many young women feel especially buoyed by the early win indicators.
31-year-old Auckland resident, Catriona Hay says Ardern clearly delivered the leadership Kiwis had asked for.
“I think Kiwis have given a huge thumbs up to Jacinda’s response to COVID-19 and her overall leadership over the last three years,” she tells Women’s Agenda. “We’ve seen a significant swing from National to Labour and an overall swing to the left”.
“It’s looking like Labour and Greens could govern with 60 percent majority which is an incredible mandate to achieve real change.”
Ardern is often celebrated for her unfamiliar politics of kindness, empathy and compassion. Hay agrees this has proved to be the antidote to uncertainty and unrest.
“Her authenticity is what always shines through,” she says. “Her regular Facebook updates where she talks straight to the camera from her home, the road– even her office has allowed people to connect directly with her without a media filter.”
“She’s truly an inspiring leader for all women. I feel lucky to live in New Zealand.”