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New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern Wins Historic Victory Following Science-Based Leadership on COVID and Climate

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern Wins Historic Victory Following Science-Based Leadership on COVID and Climate
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declares victory during the Labor Party Election Night Function at Auckland Town Hall on Oct. 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Hannah Peters / Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister who has emerged as a leader on the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, has won a second term in office.

Ardern's Labour Party secured a historic victory in New Zealand's general election Saturday, earning 49 percent of the vote and an estimated 64 out of 120 parliamentary seats, The Guardian reported. It is Labour's biggest victory in 50 years, and the first time any party has won a large enough majority to govern alone since 1996, according to BBC News. Ardern's popularity has been attributed in part to her pro-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Guardian. She acted to close down borders and institute a national lockdown, and the country saw a total of 25 deaths and less than 2,000 cases.

"Science and clear communication around Covid-19 have won the day against Trumpery and fake news — people have clearly seen how the government looked after us," Labour supporter Christine told The Guardian Sunday.

The election has also been seen as a mandate for Labour's climate policy, according to Climate Home News. During Ardern's first term, Labour governed in coalition with the Greens and the populist New Zealand First party. The government banned future offshore oil and gas exploration and passed a historic bill pledging to get the country to zero emissions by 2050.

However, some of Ardern's climate ambitions during her first term were curtailed by her partnership with New Zealand First, which blocked ideas like a tax on imported fossil-fuel cars and a subsidy for electric vehicles.

This time around, New Zealand First has lost all of its seats in parliament while the Green Party has increased its share of the votes from six to eight percent. While Labour has secured enough votes to govern alone, Ardern has said she is open to forming a coalition government, according to The Guardian, and Green Party leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson said they hoped to be included in order to move the government in a more progressive direction.

Before the election, Labour had promised more environmental policies if it won, including achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 instead of 2035. Labour's main opposition, the National Party, only secured 27 percent of the vote, down from 44 percent, according to Climate Home News. The party had run on reversing the oil and gas drilling ban as well as rolling back protections for freshwater ecosystems, according to Greenpeace New Zealand.

"The election result has delivered a strong mandate for the transformational climate action that the Prime Minister promised," Greenpeace New Zealand wrote.

Nearly 80 percent of New Zealanders are worried about the climate crisis and support a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which has thrown New Zealand into its first recession in 11 years, according to BBC News.

Recovering from that recession will be a major challenge for Ardern's second term. In addition, she no longer has the excuse of New Zealand First holding her back from more ambitious climate policies.

"NZ First was often blamed for slow progress on environment policies, and sometimes this was true. With Winston Peters and his party gone, we expect to see immediate moves to tackle agricultural climate pollution, to invest in rail and cycleways, and to protect the oceans from overfishing," Greenpeace New Zealand director Russell Norman told Climate Home News.

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