Jacinda Ardern's big NZ election win

The New Zealand PM has won a second term in office and is on track to secure enough votes to form a single-party government for the first time in 24 years

Jacinda Ardern's big NZ election win

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is celebrating a historic election win, earning her second term in office after the Labour Party scored it's greatest result in 50 years.

Labour is on track to create the first majority government in 24 years, with Ms Ardern claiming victory after the vote count indicated the incumbent leader was set for a landslide win and National Party leader Judith Collins conceded defeat.

"Our plan is already in action and already working, but after this result we have the mandate to accelerate our response and our recovery, and tomorrow we start," Ms Ardern said in her victory speech at Auckland Town Hall.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, is congratulated by her partner Clarke Gayford following her victory speech to Labour Party members at an event in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, is congratulated by her partner Clarke Gayford following her victory speech to Labour Party members at an event in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020

"Now more than ever is the time to keep going, to keep working, to grab hold of the opportunities that lay in front of us."

She acknowledged that the next few years might not be easy for the country, but that they would get through it.

"That light has always been more powerful than the most overwhelming darkness," she said.

While it remains to be seen whether Ms Ardern has the support to govern as a single-party government, preliminary results show that the centre-left Labour Party has won 49 per cent of the vote, meaning her party looks likely to score the highest result that any party has achieved since the current political system was introduced in 1996.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walks onto the stage to give her victory speech to Labour Party members at an event in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.

That result means her party is projected to win 64 out of 120 parliamentary seats, making it the first party to be able to govern alone under the current system. Coalitions are the norm in New Zealand, where no single party has won a majority of votes in the last 24 years.

"Tonight, New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in at least 50 years," Ms Ardern said. "And I can promise you: we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander."

Final results will be released in three weeks once special votes — including those cast by New Zealanders living overseas — are counted. Those results could affect the final allocation of seats in parliament.

However, the preliminary count shows a major swing to the left, with Labour picking up a significant boost on last election's 37 per cent, while its current coalition partner the Green Party is sitting on 7.6 per cent, up on last election's 6.3 per cent.

Ahead of the election, Victoria University politics lecturer Claire Timperley said Labour would be "foolish" not to have a conversation with the Greens about working together, even if Labour won an outright majority.

Labour's other current coalition partner, New Zealand First, has not secured enough votes to make it back into parliament.

"To those who have been successful tonight, our congratulations and best wishes," a dejected Winston Peters said, conceding his party had not met the 5 per cent threshold required to make it back into Parliament.

While the right-wing ACT party won 10 seats with 8 per cent of the vote, up on last election's 0.5 per cent.

Labour's main opposition, the centre-right National Party, won nearly 27 per cent of the vote giving it 35 seats — down on last election's 44 per cent and the party's worst result since 2002.

Ms Collins did not surrender the National leadership, assuring the party instead that the 2023 campaign begins now.

"We will hold the Government to account for failed promises and we will push, on behalf of all New Zealanders, the Government to do better for Kiwis," she said.

More than two million people - half of the registered voters in the country - voted early.

Ahead of the vote, Ms Ardern polled well ahead of Ms Collins.

New Zealanders are also poised to decide on two landmark social issues: whether to legalise recreational marijuana and whether to legalise euthanasia.

A "yes" vote on both referendums would arguably make the nation of five million one of the more liberal countries in the world. Polls indicate the euthanasia referendum is likely to pass while the result of the marijuana measure remains uncertain.

New Zealand election

The euthanasia measure, which would also allow assisted suicide, would apply to people who have terminal illnesses, are likely to die within six months, and are enduring "unbearable" suffering.

Countries that allow some form of euthanasia include The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Belgium and Colombia.

The marijuana measure would allow people to buy up to 14 grams a day and grow two plants. Other countries that have legalised recreational marijuana include Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, Georgia plus a number of US states.

Lara Greaves, a lecturer in New Zealand politics at the University of Auckland, said she thinks the marijuana referendum is destined to fail.

New Zealand election

"I think the problem is that we would be going from criminalisation, and a bit of medicinal use, to full-on recreational use," she said. "Probably what needed to happen to get the public on board was to have a phase of decriminalisation."

She said a large turnout of younger voters would be necessary for the measure to have any hope of passing but that was far from certain.

Another factor is that Ms Ardern has declined to say how she intends to vote, saying she wants to leave it for people to decide. Ms Greaves said that made a big difference, as people tend to follow their leaders. The prime minister did admit during the campaign to smoking marijuana when she was younger.

One vocal proponent of the marijuana referendum has been former Prime Minister Helen Clark. A position paper from her foundation argues that indigenous Maori have faced disproportionate and excessive punishment from the legal system when caught with the drug.

New Zealand election

"Cannabis use is a reality in New Zealand, and the results of our current policy approach damage our health, worsen social equity, and drive crime," Ms Clark's foundation said.

Arguing against the referendum is a number of community and religious groups who have formed the "Say Nope to Dope" campaign. They say today's marijuana is strong, addictive and harmful, and that keeping it illegal deters people from using it.

If the euthanasia referendum is approved, it would become law, whereas if the marijuana referendum is approved, it would still require lawmakers to pass matching legislation. The results from both referendums will be announced October 30.

- Reported with Stuff.co.nz, Associated Press and CNN.

Source : 9 News More