New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems to be heading for a historic majority in parliament with her Labor party. Exit polls indicate an absolute majority, so that no coalition has to be formed. This has not happened since New Zealand switched to a new electoral system in 1996.
Election was postponed due to pandemic
The Labor Party needs about half the votes for an absolute majority. The exact percentage is not yet known, as votes for parties that ultimately do not meet the electoral threshold have no effect and ‘do not count’.
So far, 90 percent of all votes have been counted. The Labor party has 49 percent of the voters behind it The Guardian. That would account for 64 of the 120 parliament seats, three more than the amount needed for a majority.
In a speech, Ardern thanked her supporters and said she looked forward to the coming three-year reign. “You have given the greatest amount of support in fifty years,” said the jubilant prime minister.
Initially, New Zealanders were supposed to go to the polls in September, but the date was moved a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A record number of more than one million inhabitants is said to have voted early since October 3. On Saturday, voters could vote until 7 p.m. local time (8 a.m. Dutch time).
Ardern had to reckon with her closest assailant Judith Collins of the center-right National Party during the election. 61-year-old Collins pledged to temporarily cut taxes and invest in New Zealand’s infrastructure, while Ardern was committed to more climate-friendly policies and extra money for schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods. That should be funded with a tax for the “richest residents of New Zealand”.
The incumbent prime minister enjoyed a generous lead in almost all polls. Forty-year-old Ardern is popular among New Zealanders and is known worldwide as a politician who tackles urgent dilemmas with a gentle hand. Since taking office at the end of 2017, Ardern has been confronted with a volcanic eruption, a bloody terrorist attack and the COVID-19 pandemic. Her corona policy is praised.
Residents of New Zealand did not only vote in parliamentary elections on Saturday: the country also discussed laws on the legalization of cannabis and euthanasia.
The latter law will be implemented immediately if more than 50 percent of residents vote in favor, while legalization of cannabis remains a choice of the new cabinet, writes BBC News.