Jacinda Ardern turns coronavirus crisis into landslide election win

How ‘once-in-a-generation leader’ Jacinda Ardern turned the coronavirus crisis into a landslide election win – and what this means for New Zealanders

  • Jacinda Ardern has won a landslide election victory despite COVID recession
  • Her Labour Party is the first ever to win majority under the quirky Kiwi system 
  • Taxes on the rich earning more than $NZ180,000 a year set to be increased 

Jacinda Ardern has demonstrated how a charismatic leader can turn the coronavirus crisis into an historic landslide election win.

The 40-year-old New Zealand Prime Minister made history on Saturday night by becoming the first-ever Kiwi leader to win an outright majority under the quirky Mixed Member Proportional parliamentary system.

Her Labour Party looks set to win 64 seats in the 120-seat House of Representatives, which means it can govern without having to form a coalition with a more left-wing minor party like the Greens.

The Opposition National Party, led by Judith Collins, was annihilated even though New Zealand is in a deep recession, with the economy shrinking by a record 12.2 per cent during the June quarter.

Jacinda Ardern has demonstrated how a charismatic leader can turn the coronavirus crisis into an historic landslide election win. She is pictured with her other half Clarke Gayford on election night

Jacinda Ardern has demonstrated how a charismatic leader can turn the coronavirus crisis into an historic landslide election win. She is pictured with her other half Clarke Gayford on election night

Griffith University politics lecturer Dr Paul Williams said Ms Ardern was a ‘once-in-a-generation’ leader.

‘She is an everywoman leader. She has a rare capacity to engage voters both personally and through the media,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘We might call that strong leadership, but there’s a degree of charisma there.’ 

Intriguingly, Labour triumphed at the polls by promising to raise taxes on the rich.

During Ms Ardern’s second term, Kiwis earning more than $NZ180,000 – or $168,000 in Australian dollars – are set to pay a new 39 per cent rate, up from 33 per cent now.

NZ is going in the opposite direction to Australia, which from July 2024 will abolish the 37 per cent rate for those earning $180,000 and create a new 30 per cent bracket for those earning between $45,000 and $200,000.

During the election campaign, Ms Ardern ruled out a wealth tax after the Greens promised a one per cent wealth tax for those with a net worth of more than $NZ1million ($A933,000).

Nonetheless, Dr Williams said higher taxes could be politically dangerous for New Zealand Labour later.

The 40-year-old New Zealand Prime Minister made history on Saturday night by becoming the first-ever Kiwi leader to win an outright majority under the quirky Mixed Member Proportional parliamentary system

The 40-year-old New Zealand Prime Minister made history on Saturday night by becoming the first-ever Kiwi leader to win an outright majority under the quirky Mixed Member Proportional parliamentary system

‘Could a wealth tax come around and bite Labour in the backside? Of course it could,’ he said.

‘It’s not dissimilar to Australia in the sense in entertains the aspirational voter, it’s a middle class party as well.’ 

Kiwi voters also endorsed Ms Ardern’s handling of COVID-19, which saw the nation placed into a strict, Alert Level Four lockdown for four weeks in March and April that even banned takeaway food.

Kiwi voters also endorsed Ms Ardern's handling of COVID-19, which saw the nation placed into a strict, Alert Level Four lockdown for four weeks in March and April that even banned takeaway food

Kiwi voters also endorsed Ms Ardern’s handling of COVID-19, which saw the nation placed into a strict, Alert Level Four lockdown for four weeks in March and April that even banned takeaway food

Dr Williams said Ms Ardern was seen as a strong leader following the March 2019 Christchurch massacre, adding the COVID-19 crisis further bolstered her standing.

‘She was on track to win majority government but clearly the pandemic seems to have been the catalyst to push her over the line,’ he said.

Ms Ardern’s nation of 5.1million people has only recorded 25 deaths, or just five per million, from 1,883 cases as part of New Zealand’s elimination strategy.

By comparison the United States has had 218,511 infections among a population of 330.5million – yielding a much higher death rate of 1,512 deaths per million. 

President Donald Trump, who faces the voters in two weeks, looks set to be defeated on November 3, if the Real Clear Politics average of polls is to be believed. 

The Republican commander-in-chief is struggling even in states that rarely vote for the Democrats, including Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina, and is behind in the key battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

While Ms Ardern has styled herself as the anti-Trump leader, she has followed the United States and Australia in banning Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from installing 5G mobile phone technology. During her first term, she slashed immigration and banned foreigners from buying real estaet

While Ms Ardern has styled herself as the anti-Trump leader, she has followed the United States and Australia in banning Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from installing 5G mobile phone technology. During her first term, she slashed immigration and banned foreigners from buying real estaet 

While Ms Ardern has styled herself as the anti-Trump leader, she has followed the United States and Australia in banning Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from installing 5G mobile phone technology. 

During her first term, she governed with the support of the nationalist New Zealand First party, which saw Ms Ardern’s government ban foreigners from buying homes and slash the immigration rate.

With former deputy PM Winston Peters defeated at the polls, her Labour government has free rein to govern in a more left-wing direction. 

On a range of issues New Zealand’s third female prime minister has a mandate to govern, but faces challenges after vowing to slash child poverty, an issue that is only set to worsen as the coronavirus pandemic drains New Zealand’s finances. 

No other PM has governed with a majority since New Zealand adopted a Mixed Member Proportional in 1996.

None, however, have been in charge during the worst pandemic in a century.

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