What New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern's 2nd Term Means for Education, Health, and Poverty
Ardern won in a landslide victory on Saturday.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won a second term in office, following a landslide victory on Saturday that saw the “greatest support” for the Labour Party in at least 50 years.
As the counting on election night came to a close, Labour had obtained 49% of the vote, a figure that allows the party to hold more than the 61 seats required for a parliamentary majority. Ardern’s resounding win has seen a parliamentary majority secured for the first time for any party since New Zealand introduced electoral reforms in 1996.
If she wishes, Ardern can invite the Greens to form a new coalition government, but she is under no obligation. The exact makeup of the new government should be made clear in the coming weeks.
Ardern first took to the top job in 2017, where she ended almost a decade of National rule to lead a coalition government.
In three years, Ardern has faced a terrorist mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, a volcanic eruption at While Island that killed 21 people, and the COVID-19 pandemic — in which she implemented the highly effective “go hard, go early” approach.
During this time, Ardern became the second world leader to give birth in office and the first leader to take maternity leave.
Thank you to all of our incredible supporters who gave us their votes. We couldn't have done it without you. Now, let's keep moving ⏩ pic.twitter.com/2hXTSsaKYe— New Zealand Labour (@nzlabour) October 17, 2020
On Saturday, Ardern thanked New Zealanders for their enduring support.
"Tonight New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in at least 50 years. We have seen that support in both urban areas and in rural areas too. In seats we may have hoped for, but in those we equally may not have expected,” Ardern wrote on Instagram. “And for that, I only have two simple words — thank you.”
New Zealand’s new 120-seat parliament will now feature 12 LGBTQ+ MPs, up from seven last year, making the country home to the queerest parliament in the world, according to SBS News. Ibrahim Omer, a former refugee from Eritrea, has also made history by becoming New Zealand's first African MP.
Ardern has laid out key policies to be prioritized over the next few years.
Climate change will be a big priority, with Labour committed to bringing forward New Zealand’s 100% renewable energy target to 2030, with a critical focus on pumped hydroelectric energy storage. Labour has also promised to continue New Zealand’s goal of planting 1 billion trees by 2028.
Labour will also build new schools and classrooms for 100,000 students, make mental health support available to all primary, intermediate, and secondary school age students, ban conversion therapy, and ensure every New Zealander has a “warm, dry home.”
Kiwis have also voted to legalize cannabis and euthanasia.
One of the largest election promises Ardern made in 2017 was to address and reduce child poverty in New Zealand.
Earlier this year, Ardern said Labour’s Families Package program, which began rolling out in mid-2018, had successfully lifted over 18,000 children out of poverty.
However, her critics say the policy has yet to be meaningfully fulfilled, with National Leader Simon Bridges claiming child poverty figures rose between 2017 and 2018, before dropping slightly in 2019.
According to Ardern, figures will drop further once Labour’s policies are fully implemented.
“Labour is committed to addressing child poverty and making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child. We passed legislation to establish targets and progress measures for reducing child poverty and set an ambitious ten-year target to halve the rate of child poverty in New Zealand,” Labour’s 2020 Manifesto reads. “We will keep making real change to ensure our children get the best start in life.”
New Zealand’s Free and Healthy School Lunch Program has been expanded to cover 200,000 students in 2021.