New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern urged people to come together yesterday after winning a second term in office in a landslide victory.
The 40-year-old, whose popularity soared earlier this year after she led a successful effort to stamp out Covid-19, easily won her country’s general election.
There is currently no community spread of the virus in the nation of five million, and people are no longer required to wear masks or socially distance.
With most votes counted, Ms Ardern’s Labour Party was yesterday winning 49% of the vote compared with 27% for the conservative National Party. Labour was set to win an outright majority of seats in the parliament, something that has not happened in New Zealand since a proportional voting system was implemented 24 years ago.
In a victory speech in Auckland, Ms Ardern said her party had received more support from New Zealanders than at any time in at least 50 years. She said: “This has not been an ordinary election, and it’s not an ordinary time. It’s been full of uncertainty and anxiety, and we set out to be an antidote to that.”
Ms Ardern promised not to take her new supporters for granted and to govern for all New Zealanders, adding: “We are living in an increasingly polarised world, a place where, more and more, people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view. I think in this election, New Zealanders have shown that this is not who we are.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Ardern, writing on Twitter: “Congratulations on your resounding re-election. In a fine victory speech, these words resonate and perhaps they hold a lesson for Scotland too – ‘As a nation, we can listen, we can debate…we are too small to lose sight of other people’s perspective’.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tweeted: “From our work together to tackle climate change to forging an exciting new trade partnership, the UK and NZ have great things to look forward to in the future.”
Ms Ardern, 40, became prime minister after the 2017 election when Labour formed an alliance with two other parties. The following year she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.
The prime minister was also widely praised for her handling of last year’s attack on two Christchurch mosques, when a white supremacist gunned down 51 Muslim worshippers. Ms Ardern moved quickly to pass new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.
In March this year, when only about 100 people had tested positive for Covid-19, Ms Ardern and her health officials put New Zealand into lockdown with a motto of “go hard and go early”.
She shut the borders and outlined an ambitious goal of eliminating the virus entirely, rather than just trying to control its spread.
The country, which has a population of five million, eliminated community transmission for 102 days before a new cluster was discovered in Auckland in August.
Ms Ardern swiftly imposed a second lockdown in Auckland and the new outbreak faded away. The only new cases currently are among returning travellers, who are in quarantine.
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