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New Zealand: Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party set for Landslide Victory

NEW DELHI, Oct 17: Enjoying public support for having done a good job in containing the spread of Corona pandemic in her country, the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern is all set to lead her Labour Party to a landslide victory for a second term in the office.

With 87% of the vote counted, Ardern’s Labour Party had 49% support — heading to its biggest share of the vote since the 1930s — after a huge swing to the left in many urban and provincial electorates. The opposition National Party slumped to 27%, its worst showing since 2002.

Even before the final results are out, Ardern candidly told her audience that she was aware of the damages caused to the country’s economy by the pandemic and would use her mandate to rebuild the economy and tackle social inequality.

“Over the next three years there is much work to do,” she told supporters Saturday night in Auckland. “We will build back better from the Covid crisis. We have the mandate to accelerate our response and our recovery.”

Ardern, 40, has captured the hallowed center ground in New Zealand politics with a blend of empathetic leadership and skilled crisis management that has also won her fame abroad. Her successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated those strengths, drowning out criticism that she hasn’t delivered on some key promises during her first term in office.

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.

Voters are rewarding Ardern for crushing community transmission of Covid-19 while countries like the U.K., U.S. and even neighboring Australia are still battling to contain the virus.

Main opposition National Party leader Judith Collins conceded defeat in a speech earlier, saying she had spoken to Ardern to congratulate her. She, however, expressed some reservations about the Ardern government’s fiscal discipline. “New Zealand is in for a tough economic ride and it is going to need better fiscal policy than we have so far seen,” she said.

(Manas Dasgupta)