New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party appears to have won a landslide election, leading the National Party by a 49% to 27% margin. The result would mean that Labour can form a government by itself, as they will have won a majority of the seats in the New Zealand Parliament. This would be the first time that’s happened since the country switched to proportional voting in 1996.
In short, it’s a resounding vote of confidence in the 40-year-old Ardern, who became prime minister in 2017 in a coalition government with two other parties. What is it about Ardern that New Zealand’s voters connected with?
It might be competence: Ardern faced some difficult situations in her three years in charge, including the shooting of 51 Muslims in two mosques last year, plus her calm yet strong leadership during this year’s COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand has had a total of 1,883 cases and only 25 deaths out of a total population of 4.9 million. That’s a positive case rate of 0.04% and a death rate of 0.0005%. Compare that to the U.S.: 8.12 million cases (2.5% of the U.S. population of about 328 million) and 219,000 deaths (0.06% of the population).
Maybe it’s compassion: New Zealanders appear to be tired of nationalist extremism. Ardern has shown the ability to work across party lines to accomplish positive results for her constituents, and the country’s most nationalist party, the New Zealand First Party, appears to have lost all of their seats in Parliament.
(Ardern also became only the second national leader to give birth while in office when her daughter Neve Te Aroha was born in 2018.)
Ardern expressed hope for the future in her post-election speech today:
There is some sanity left on the planet. Perhaps we’ll start moving in that direction in a couple of weeks.