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Explained: New Zealand’s election results and the enduring popularity of Jacinda Ardern

With nearly 50 per cent of the vote, Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party will get more than the 61 seats required for a parliamentary majority.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party has won over 49 per cent votes in the general elections. At 26.9 percent of the votes, the National Party is in second place.

What is the significance of these election results?

Ardern’s party has won a majority, the biggest victory for the Labour Party in over 50 years. This will also be the first time that a party will be governing alone since New Zealand moved to the MMP (mixed-member proportional representation) electoral system in 1996. With nearly 50 per cent of the vote, the party will get more than the 61 seats required for a parliamentary majority.

Who is Jacinda Ardern?

Ardern, who has been hailed for her ‘compassionate’ leadership, became the 40th prime minister of New Zealand in 2017 and has been the leader of the Labour Party since then. She was born in Hamilton and grew up in rural areas, before attending Waikato University where she studied communications in politics and public relations. Ardern joined the Labour Party at the age of 18 and entered New Zealand’s parliament in 2008.

She is one of the few Prime Ministers to have given birth while in office.

What are some of Ardern’s noteworthy policies?

During her political career, Ardern has been popular even outside New Zealand for holding progressive views about issues such as migration and for being vocal about the rights of children, women and the right of every New Zealander to find meaningful work.

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Ardern’s tenure as Prime Minister saw the Christchurch shootings in 2019 where over 49 were killed. She was lauded for her handling of the attack, which was followed by a prompt action to ban guns.

Her campaign for the 2020 elections was largely focussed on her handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The country announced the end of community transmission in May, at a time when most developed countries were still dealing with the virus’s first wave. Till now, the country, which has a population of about 5 million has seen over 2000 cases of COVID-19 and roughly 25 deaths.

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Ardern has also been vocal about climate change. Last November, the parliament passed the Zer-Carbon Act, which commits New Zealand to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner. “I absolutely believe and continue to stand by the statement that climate change is the biggest challenge of our time,” Ardern told the Parliament in November 2019.

Even so, her critics are unhappy with Ardern for not fulfilling some of her election promises, including having policies that have made a meaningful impact on inequality and measures to reduce child poverty.

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