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Ardern Wins NZ Reelection Amid a 'Major Shift'

Prime minister's Labour Party may end up as first party to have majority of votes in nearly 70 years
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2020 6:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – She first gained international attention for her empathy while handling the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings and the White Island volcano eruption. Then she led New Zealand out of the worst of the coronavirus outbreak. Now, another victory for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: She's won her reelection bid, in a landslide. CNN reports that Ardern's center-left Labour Party has scooped up 48.9% of the vote, with 87% of the votes counted—the highest percentage seen by any party since the country revamped its political system nearly a quarter-century ago. The New York Times notes Ardern, 40, was an 11th-hour choice to lead the Labour Party in 2017, and that while she gained admiration from outsiders during her first term, some back home were disappointed in how she struggled with her progressive promises, such as fixing the housing market and getting rid of child poverty.

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But then the pandemic hit, and Ardern used a "go hard, go early" approach that helped New Zealand avoid the worst of the virus. To date, the country has had only 25 COVID-19 deaths and fewer than 2,000 cases overall, and the nation of 5 million has returned to a mostly normal way of life. Final results of the election will be seen in three weeks, after all special ballots have been tallied, including those from abroad. If Labour ends up with at least 50% of the vote, it will be the first time a party there has won a true majority of the votes since 1951. "This is a historic shift," a Victoria University political analyst tells Reuters. "Tonight, New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in at least 50 years," Ardern said in her victory speech Saturday night, per CNN. "And I can promise you: We will be a party that governs for every New Zealander." (Read more Jacinda Ardern stories.)

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