Labour is celebrating a landslide victory tonight after winning 49% of the vote. The result means Labour could govern alone — the first time this has happened since New Zealand introduced a mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system in 1993.
In her victory speech, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the result gave Labour “the mandate to accelerate our [COVID-19] response and our recovery. And tomorrow we start.”
Earlier, National Party leader Judith Collins, whose party only won 26.8% of the vote, promised to be a “robust opposition” and “hold the government to account for failed promises”.
In the new parliament, Labour will have 64 seats — three more than the 61 needed to form government. National has 35, the Green Party ten, ACT ten and the Māori Party is expected to return to parliament with one seat.
The numbers are a reversal of the 2017 results, when Labour polled 36.9%, National had 44.4% of the vote and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters became the kingmaker.
New Zealanders had to wait almost a month before Peters announced he would form a coalition with the Labour Party, becoming deputy prime minister. The Green Party joined the coalition in a confidence and supply arrangement.
In this election, NZ First was ousted from parliament, after the party failed to reach the 5% threshold and neither of its candidates managed to win an electorate seat.
Five parties gained seats in parliament. The Māori Party is expected to win one of seven Māori electorate seats and return to parliament even though it only achieved 1% of the party vote. None of the other minor parties won electorate seats or reached the 5% party vote threshold.
Compared to previous elections, record numbers of New Zealanders voted early in 2020. A day before the election, almost 2 million people had already cast their vote.
2017 election results
In 2017, the National Party won 44.4% of the votes and on election night, then prime minister Bill English celebrated victory.
But NZ First won 7.5% and held the balance of power. It was the third time for NZ First leader Winston Peters to become the veto player in the government-formation process.
After almost four weeks of negotiations, he opted to go into coalition with Labour, with the Green Party in a confidence and supply role. For the first time under New Zealand’s MMP electoral system, the new government was not led by the party that had won the largest number of seats.
Jacinda Ardern became prime minister in an extraordinary period in New Zealand’s political history. Just three months earlier, Ardern had been the deputy leader of a Labour Party polling in minor party territory.
Finlay Macdonald, New Zealand Editor: Politics, Business + Arts, The Conversation; Liz Minchin, Executive Editor, New Zealand, The Conversation; Michael Lund, Commissioning Editor, The Conversation; Veronika Meduna, New Zealand Editor: Science, Health + Environment, The Conversation, and Wes Mountain, Multimedia Editor, The Conversation