Country’s first majority government since 1993 . . .
On Saturday, voters returned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour Party to government in New Zealand’s general election. The centre-left Labour Party received 49 per cent of the vote for 64 of the 120 seats in Parliament. The centre-right National Party will be the main opposition party, earning a little over a quarter of the vote, enough for 35 seats. The Green Party and the libertarian ACT New Zealand Party will each have 10 seats, while the Maori Party will have one seat. While in Canada, 64 out of 120 seats in Parliament would constitute a ‘slim majority,’ in New Zealand it has been widely described as a ‘landslide,’ as outright majorities are rare. The country last had a majority government in 1993, three years before the electoral system changed from first-past-the-post to mixed-member proportional.
Strong COVID-19 response, opposition in disarray . . .
Labour’s decisive victory came on the back of a strong and successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an opposition National Party that suffered from internal wrangling. New Zealand was quick to close its borders at the start of the pandemic, and PM Ardern received broad praise for her decisive action, effective communication, and empathy. The country has had fewer than 2,000 cases. Amid low poll numbers, the National Party churned both leaders and deputy leaders, having three of each this year. Its current leader, Judith Collins, assumed her position only in late July, and as many predicted, was unable to turn around the party’s electoral fortunes.
Labour’s second mandate . . .
The first priority for PM Ardern and Labour will be to kick-start an economy in recession for the first time in 11 years. It is a task far easier said than done in a pandemic-induced global recession for a small country whose economy relies on agricultural exports and international tourism. Even though Labour will not need support from other parties, reports have surfaced of talks with the Green Party on a potential co-operative arrangement, with one of the Green co-leaders being offered the climate change portfolio. This remains speculative, and PM Ardern has indicated the government will be formed “within the next two to three weeks.”
- BBC: New Zealand election: Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party scores landslide win
- New Zealand Herald: Election results 2020 (with video)
- Radio New Zealand: Election 2020: What now...?