“THE RESULT OF THE EVENING was strong,” said Jacinda Ardern, with the kind of understatement only a New Zealander can. The Prime Minister had just secured a second three-year government term for the Labor Party in a general election on October 17 with 49% of the vote – the best result for any party since 1951. That gives Ms Ardern 64 out of 120 seats in New Zealand. seat, unicameral parliament, against 35 for the main opposition, the National Party. This is the first time a party has been able to govern alone since New Zealand adopted a proportional representation system in 1996.
There is hardly a corner of the country that has not been painted in Labor Signature Red. New Zealanders choose both a party and an MP when they vote. Labor dominated the party vote in 68 of 72 constituencies. It was prevalent in wealthy urban areas and conservative farming districts. He knocked down old political pillars. National Deputy Chief Gerry Brownlee lost a seat he had held for a quarter of a century. First New Zealand, a populist party with which Labor has governed in coalition for three years, has been purged of parliament.
This march has more to do with the prime minister’s pulling power than with the ideas of his party. In the three years since taking office, she has guided the 5m country through its worst terrorist attack, a deadly volcanic eruption and the coronavirus pandemic. She has been praised for uniting the Kiwis as other countries are increasingly divided. Its strict response to the coronavirus was successful in eradicating local transmission (albeit with a brief relapse), allowing life to return to normal in New Zealand. Even her most fervent opponents admit that she has a graceful and direct way of communicating.
“The brilliance” of the Prime Minister, says Mike Grimshaw of the University of Canterbury, is that she “plays in the idea that we are exceptional”. New Zealanders have always been fond of the idea that they are a country apart in more than a geographic sense. Mrs Ardern reminded them of this by declaring the victory. “More and more people have lost the ability to see each other’s point of view,” she said, at the mercy of her team. “New Zealand has shown that this is not who we are; that as a nation we can listen.
Although Labor does not need help, there is still a chance it could ask the Greens, who won 7.6% of the vote, to join it in a coalition. National, which won the support of just 27% of voters, will be weak in opposition. Part of the reason he’s been so poorly done is that he’s been through three leaders since May. Yet there is already talk of another coup against his latest boss, Judith Collins, according to Matthew Hooton, a former member of the national staff. Ms Collins took a confrontational approach to the campaign, in keeping with her tough guy character. She called Ms Ardern a “liar” and said obese people were to blame for their weight problems – but that didn’t seem particularly appealing to voters.
Still, the Conservatives will be reassured that the new government is unlikely to be too radical. Although Labor no longer has to work with a more conservative coalition partner, it has won the support of center-right voters it will not want to alienate. In her victory speech, Ms Ardern assured them: “We will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.” It is code, says Hooton, to be “totally uncontroversial.”
Labor still pledges to build cheap houses and reduce poverty, something they failed to do in their first term. He wants New Zealand to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources within a decade. Yet Ms Ardern has abandoned plans for new wealth and capital gains taxes. She pledged to raise income taxes in an attempt to reduce growing debt, but only on the richest 2%. None of this, however, is a way out of the recession caused by the pandemic. Ms Ardern insists she will restore growth to the economy, but her plans are unclear. And while she could previously complain, with justification, that Labor coalition partners were holding back her government, the responsibility for fixing matters now rests solely with her.