“Tonight, New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in at least 50 years,” Ardern said in a powerful victory speech on Saturday night where she referred to the difficult times ahead for New Zealand. “And I can promise you: we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.”
Coalitions are the norm in New Zealand, where no single party has ever won a majority of votes under the current system.
Results are still being counted. Final results will be released in three weeks once special votes — including those cast by New Zealanders living overseas — are counted.
Labour has been hovering around 50% of the vote for much of election night. It likely won’t be clear until the final results are in whether Labour can govern alone or will need to form a coalition with the Greens, but 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, while the right-wing ACT party is currently on 8%, up on last election’s 0.5%.
New Zealand has reported less than 2,000 total cases and 25 deaths since the pandemic began.
At the start of the year, polls suggested National and Labour could be in for a tight election. Ardern had huge international popularity, but back home some were disappointed by her lack of progress on key promises, including on addressing the overheated housing market.
“We always knew it was going to be tough, didn’t we?” Collins said during her concession speech on Saturday. “We will take time to reflect, and we will review, and we will change. National will reemerge from this loss a stronger, more disciplined and more connected party.
“I say to everybody: we will be back.”
Lara Greaves, a New Zealand politics lecturer at the University of Auckland, said the high level of advance voting may have been related to Covid-19 — voters wanted to avoid lines and the possibility that a fresh Covid-19 outbreak could impact their ability to vote on the day.
Ardern looks set to face another tough term ahead, as she attempts to address those issues while steering the country through the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. But political analysts aren’t expecting flashy flagship policies — instead, they predict Ardern will continue making incremental changes.
“Real change requires steps that bring people with us,” Ardern said at the country’s final election debate on Thursday. “I stand by my record … I am not done yet.”
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