By Dewi Morris | Political Editor
The incumbent prime minister, Jacinda Arden addressed the nation after her victory saying:
“New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in almost 50 years. We will not take your support for granted. And I can promise you we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.”
The opposition, New Zealand National Party, won 26.8% and 35 seats. The other parties to win seats were: ACT New Zealand with 10, the Greens also with 10, and the Māori Party with 1.
Labour increased their seats by 18, from 46 in the last New Zealand election in 2017. The nation hasn’t had a majority government since 1996.
In New Zealand, a general election is held every three years. This year’s election was due to be held on September 19, however, due to COVID-19 restrictions it was delayed until October 17.
Arden’s unique leadership style
Jacinda Arden perhaps first drew world attention for her handling of the Christchurch terror attacks in March 2019, she was praised by global figures for her delicate and compassionate approach.
Arden once again captured a world-wide audience over her leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand has maintained incredibly low infection rates since the beginning of the pandemic and life in New Zealand has more or less returned to normal.
Her unorthodox and relaxed leadership style may have also added to her popularity. In March, she addressed New Zealand in a Q and A session from her home wearing a relaxed jumper which she apologized for saying “it can be a messy business putting toddlers to bed”.
The Dalai Lama congratulated Arden on her election victory and praised her leadership approach saying “I admire the courage, wisdom and leadership [of Jacinda Ardern], as well as the calm, compassion and respect for others, she has shown in these challenging times.”
However, Arden’s reputation may present a challenge. Some observers believe that she has set the bar at a high level beyond what she can live up to while leading the next government, especially as New Zealand entered a recession in September.
Economist, Peter Wilson, commented:
“The next three years will be about economic recovery and the way the government deals with it, a very different challenge and arguably a more difficult one.”
A possible coalition?
A new government is due to be formed in two or three weeks. Despite having a rare outright majority, Ms Arden has not ruled out entering a coalition with the Green party, and there have been talks between Arden and the Greens’ leader James Shaw.
The new government will perhaps be the most inclusive ever. Becoming the youngest female leader of a nation herself, over half of Labour’s MPs are women, and 16 are Māori. Independent of parties, 10% of the new parliamentarians openly identify as members of the LGBT community.
Euthanasia and Cannabis legalisation
Two referendums also took place alongside the New Zealand election last week. On legalising assisted dying for the terminally ill and legalising the recreational use of cannabis.
In a debate between Arden and Judith Collins, leader of the New Zealand National Party, the Prime Minister admitted past cannabis use “a long time ago.” The crowd at the debate applauded Arden for her honesty. However, Arden did not reveal which way she would vote. Collins said she would be voting against its legalisation.
The cannabis referendum is a non-binding vote, meaning even if a majority vote in favour this does not mean it will become law. However, it can be expected that a majority view would be respected.
The referendum on euthanasia is binding, meaning if a majority votes in favour of legalising assisted dying, then this would become law.
Preliminary results for these referendums won’t be announced until October 30.