Jacinda Ardern considers coalition despite New Zealand election landslide

Re-elected prime minister says she will be ready to form a government in two to three weeks

 New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at an election night event in Auckland on Saturday. Photograph: David Rowland/EPA

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at an election night event in Auckland on Saturday. Photograph: David Rowland/EPA

 

Jacinda Ardern has held out the possibility of forming a coalition government despite securing a historic election victory that will enable her Labour Party to govern alone.

New Zealanders expressed relief on Sunday at her re-election, after a campaign that felt long and wearying for many. Ms Ardern’s party won the highest percentage of the vote in more than five decades, claiming 64 of the 120 seats in parliament, with her handling of the Covid-19 crisis regarded as decisive in her win.

Leaders around the world – from Boris Johnson to the Dalai Lama – congratulated her for her compassion and action on climate change.

As Ms Ardern swung straight back into the job – meeting her senior MPs for a coffee – tens of thousands of New Zealanders made their way to Eden Park in Auckland to watch the second Bledisloe Cup rugby match between the All Blacks and Australia, further highlighting the country’s many freedoms and liberties at a time when cases in Europe and the US are soaring, and lockdowns slamming back into place.

One new local case of Covid-19 did however emerge in Auckland on Sunday, halting the nation’s three-week streak.n

Ms Ardern said she would take two to three weeks to officially form a government, after talks with potential coalition partners.

“We’ll be cracking on very quickly with our agenda, we clearly have a mandate from New Zealand, ” she said. “I have been a consensus builder but I also need to work with the strong mandate Labour has been given.”

Her opponent, National party leader Judith Collins, said she would carry on as leader of the party, but it is yet to be seen if her caucus will back her after such a resounding loss.

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson have confirmed they spoke to Ms Ardern. The party won 10 seats in parliament – two more than the previous election – and is hoping to be invited to join her government, pushing it further to the left.

World reaction

While Labour could rule alone, Mr Shaw expressed confidence the Greens would be included to make use of their ministers’ specific experience, to bolster the new government’s majority and to build their partnership for the future, and an even more progressive government down the line.

“We want to win again in 2023,” he said. “We are stronger at the end of our first term in government than we were at the beginning. We defied the odds. We made history.”

Ms Ardern’s victory was hailed around the world, with British prime minister Boris Johnson tweeting that he looked forward to working with her on tackling climate change and “forging an exciting new trade partnership”.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said he looked forward to working with Ms Ardern “fighting climate change, empowering women and girls around the world, [and] ensuring equitable vaccine distribution”.

The Dalai Lama also sent warm words of praise and congratulations. “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.”

Political experts in New Zealand say the Labour leader is facing one of the toughest leadership terms in modern history, and expectations are now so high it will be hard for her not to disappoint voters. The party also has many inexperienced new MPs, with only a handful of veterans available to manage the important portfolios.

In September, New Zealand officially entered a recession, as a result of multiple lockdowns and closed borders. The tourism industry, construction and horticulture have taken significant knocks, and poverty and benefit numbers are on the rise, with the waiting list for state housing at record highs. – Guardian