Jacinda Ardern Photograph:( Reuters )
The mandate implies Ardern could form the first single-party government in decades, and face the challenge of delivering on the progressive transformation she promised but failed to deliver in her first term, where Labour shared power with a nationalist party.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party overwhelmingly won the country's general election on Saturday.
The mandate implies Ardern, 40, could form the first single-party government in decades, and face the challenge of delivering on the progressive transformation she promised but failed to deliver in her first term, where Labour shared power with a nationalist party.
Opposition National Party leader Judith Collins said she had called the prime minister to congratulate her for an "outstanding result".
"To Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who I have phoned, congratulations on your result because it is, I believe, an outstanding result for the Labour Party," Collins said in a televised speech.
Ardern came out of her home in Auckland, waved and hugged gathered supporters. She thanked her countrymen for delivering her party the landslide general election victory on the back of her government's success fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Thank you to the many people who gave us their vote, who trusted us to continue leading New Zealand's recovery," she told cheering supporters, adding that her centre-left Labour Party had seen its highest level of support in at least 50 years.
Labour had 49.0% of the votes, far ahead of National at 27%, the Electoral Commission said, with 77% of ballots counted in an election that was largely a referendum on Ardern`s aggressive handling of COVID-19.
Of Ardern's current coalition partners, the nationalist New Zealand First Party had 2.6% and the Green Party 7.6%. If she is unable to form a Labour-only government, she is expected to continue to rely on the minor Greens while jettisoning New Zealand First.
A Labour-Green coalition would be the first fully left-leaning government since the 1970s, a scenario that National`s Collins warned would mean more taxes and an environment hostile to business.
Ardern has pledged to raise taxes on top earners, while Collins promised short-term tax cuts, but they have otherwise shown few major differences on policy.
The prime minister won global acclaim for her handling of a mass shooting last year by a white supremacist in Christchurch, with her inclusive "be strong, be kind" mantra and swift action to ban guns.
She burnished that reputation this year with a "go hard, go early" approach to the new coronavirus, which has eliminated locally spread COVID-19 in the nation.
The election was delayed by a month after new COVID-19 infections in Auckland, that led to a second lockdown in the country's largest city.
New Zealanders also voted on Saturday in referendums to legalise euthanasia and recreational marijuana, with results to be announced on October 30. The latter vote could make New Zealand only the third country in the world to allow the adult use and sale of cannabis nationwide, after Uruguay and Canada.