Sat 17 October 2020:
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on track to win Saturday’s general election in a landslide after the country eliminated coronavirus.
With polls closed and 30 per cent of votes counted, her centre-left Labour Party has won 50 per cent of votes, enough to comfortably secure a majority of seats in parliament.
The centre-right National Party has only 25 per cent of the vote, a disastrous result for the main opposition party which would be its second-worst tally in its 84-year history.
Voters have rewarded Ms Ardern, 40, for her successful handling of Covid-19 after the country stopped the disease spreading with a short, harsh lockdown and border closures, allowing most of normal life to resume with only 1,883 cases and 25 deaths recorded.
Labor had 50.5 percent of the votes, ahead of the opposition National Party of Judith Collins at 25.8 percent, the Electoral Commission said, with 30 percent of ballots counted in the election that was largely a referendum on Ardern’s aggressive handling of COVID-19.
Of Ardern’s current coalition partners, the nationalist New Zealand First Party had 2.3 percent and the Green Party 8.2 percent.
Labor is on track to win 66 of the 120 seats in the country’s unicameral parliament, the highest by any party since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996.
If Labor wins more than half the seats, Ardern could form the first single-party government under the current system.
The prime minister won global acclaim for her handling of a mass shooting last year by a white supremacist in Christchurch, with her inclusive “be strong, be kind” mantra and swift action
to ban guns.
She burnished that reputation this year with a “go hard, go early” approach to the new coronavirus, which has eliminated locally spread COVID-19 in the nation.
The election was delayed by a month after new COVID-19 infections in Auckland, that led to a second lockdown in the country’s largest city.
While known internationally for promoting progressive causes such as woman’s rights and social justice, at home Ardern faced criticism that her government failed on a promise to be transformational.
Life is back to normal in New Zealand, but its borders are still shut, its tourism sector is bleeding and economists predict a lasting recession after the harsh lockdowns.