Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a landslide victory in New Zealand’s general election Saturday.
With two thirds of the vote counted, Ardern’s centre-left Labour Party was on 49.2 percent, far ahead of the opposition National Party at 27 %. The Labour Party is forecast to take around 64 seats in the 120-member pariliament.
While the count has not been finalised, the figures were enough for opposition leader Judith Collins to congratulate Ardern.
Her conservative National Party was expected to take around 35 seats in what appears to be its worst result in nearly 20 years.
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. Typically, parties must form alliances to govern, but this time Ardern and Labour can go it alone.
Her emphatic victory is the result of her success in controlling COVID-19 across New Zealand. Jacinda,40, said that she would use her mandate to rebuild an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic and tackle social inequality.
Ardern had dubbed the vote “the Covid election” and campaigned on her government’s success in eliminating community transmission of the virus, which has caused just 25 deaths in a population of five million.
The pandemic is just one of a string of crises that showed Ardern’s leadership qualities during a torrid first term.
She displayed both empathy and decisive action on gun control after a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosques attack last year.
Ardern again found herself comforting a shocked nation when a volcanic eruption at White Island, also known as Whakaari, killed 21 people and left dozens more with horrific burns.
Labour is pledging massive spending on infrastructure to boost the economy and has pledged to impose a higher tax rate on income over NZ$180,000 ($120,000) a year to raise more revenue. Ardern has ruled out implementing the wealth tax proposed by the Greens.
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.