Labour leader remains positive despite falling short of majority
NEW ZEALAND’S Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern still remained hopeful that she could become prime minister yesterday after Saturday’s election stalemate which saw neither of the country’s two major parties gain enough seats to form a government.
Ms Ardern told reporters that she was feeling positive despite being beaten by the ruling National Party, which won the greatest number of seats — 58 — to her 45.
As both parties were short of the 61 needed to form a government in the 120-seat parliament, it is now down to the nationalist New Zealand First’s Winston Peters — who won nine seats — to decide the prime minister.
Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, large parties typically must form alliances with smaller ones in order to govern.
Mr Peters has played the same role in two previous elections and said his decision would not be rushed.
“As things stand we do have the balance of political responsibility and we’re not going to be hasty with that,” he said.
New Zealanders may need to wait for days or even weeks to confirm whether National Party leader Bill English will remain as prime minister.
But Ms Ardern could still be in with a chance as part of a Green-NZ First-Labour coalition. It’s not clear how likely that is, given NZ First’s anti-immigrant position and the fact the Greens have previously branded Mr Peters a racist.
Ms Arden said she couldn’t predict what decisions the leaders of other parties might make.
Ms Ardern had enjoyed a remarkable surge in popularity since taking over as opposition leader last month. The hype around the centre-left leader dubbed “Jacindamania” saw her attract huge numbers to rallies and a flood of new members to the party.
While Labour promised to reverse some cuts and increase spending, it also pledged to run budget surpluses and floated plans to restrict strikes during negotiations on sectoral pay agreements.