NZ Election 2020: International media reacts to Jacinda Ardern's historic win

Labour's landslide victory last night has made history and global headlines, Jacinda Ardern's widespread popularity capturing international interest in an election that gave the Prime Minister the power to govern alone.

Ardern secured her second term in a historic win on Saturday, amassing 49 percent of the party vote and 64 seats in Parliament. Sixty-one seats are required for a party to govern without a coalition, a milestone that hasn't been achieved in decades.

The night was full of surprises, with the Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick, 26, snatching the Auckland Central seat in an unprecedented victory. The electorate, held by retiring National MP Nikki Kaye for four terms, was a battleground of epic proportions, with Labour's Helen White in hot pursuit.

In another twist, the Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi won the Waiariki seat from Labour's Tamati Coffey by the slimmest of margins, the parties in a back-and-forth grapple for the top spot throughout the counting process. Meanwhile, two safe National seats - Nelson and Ilam, held by Nick Smith and Gerry Brownlee since 1996 respectively - were taken out by their Labour counterparts.

The landmark election has been picked up by media across the world, with global outlets hailing the Prime Minister's historic victory in a turbulent year.

Here's what the headlines are saying.

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

'A big win driven by star power'

In a piece for BBC News, Shaimaa Khalil acknowledged the election was never going to be a nail-biter, with opinion polls comfortably placing Ardern on course to secure her second term. The results just confirmed what everyone already knew, Khalil said.

"The real question was how big Jacinda Ardern and her party were going to win and by anyone's standard this is a remarkable victory," she wrote.

"It's a big victory for a party that has been carried through by the star power of its leader. Ms Ardern has led New Zealand through a terrorist attack, a natural disaster and a global pandemic - and has done so focusing on kindness and compassion."

However, Khalil noted that things will not get any easier for the Prime Minister, with New Zealand in the depths of a recession for the first time in 11 years. Ardern will have her work cut out to resuscitate the economy - a feat that will require more than "popularity and charisma".

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson.
Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Getty

Labour relying on a 'dangerous strategy'

In an article for The Guardian, two New Zealand-based journalists acknowledged the danger of Labour's reliance on Ardern's popularity, citing Auckland University politics professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment.

"She's not trying to win anyone over, so while this appears safe for Labour, it’s actually a very dangerous strategy," Lees-Marshment said.

The writers noted that Labour's campaign was heavily dependent on Ardern's popularity, referencing one social media ad proclaiming that a vote for the party would allow Kiwis to "Keep Jacinda". 

"Analysts said it was a risky strategy for the party in the long term," they wrote, also pointing out the party's lack of transformative change to wealth inequality.

"There have been small improvements to low incomes but no transformative step changes," Susan St John,  a researcher for Child Poverty Action Group, was quoted. "Government promises on prioritising child poverty led to very modest reduction targets that are looking less achievable on the current settings amid the COVID-19 recession."

The Guardian piece also referred to the divisive nature of Collins at the helm of the National Party, a veteran politician "loved and loathed in equal measure" whose pointed attacks on Ardern failed to resonate with voters.

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

'Ardern storms to historic victory after crushing COVID'

On our shores, Opposition leader Collins is well-known for her 'Crusher' moniker - a name encapsulating the hardline, tough-talking persona she has cultivated. Yet according to Bloomberg, Ardern is the one with the iron fist.

"Ardern storms to historic victory after crushing COVID", the article proclaims, the Prime Minister rewarded by voters "for crushing community transmission of COVID-19".

New Zealand has not recorded a case of community transmission since September 25, a second lockdown in August effectively squashing the spread of the virus. New imported cases have continued to be intercepted at managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and the death toll stands at 25. 

"Ardern, 40, has captured the hallowed centre-ground in New Zealand politics with a blend of empathetic leadership and skilled crisis management that has also won her fame abroad. Her successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated those strengths, drowning out criticism that she hasn’t delivered on some key promises during her first term in office," they wrote.

"Ardern will now have more scope to deliver the transformational government she promised when she came to power three years ago, particularly if the Greens can push her to be more progressive on issues such as poverty and climate change."

Yet increased social spending while the country lies in the doldrums of a recession may alienate many centre-right voters, the outlet noted, the Government digging a deep hole of debt to fund its internationally-lauded pandemic response.

'She is ascendant as the international darling of progressivism'

The Spectator journalist Nicholas Sheppard has hailed the Prime Minister as the "darling of progressivism", acknowledging her personal appeal as a young politician exuding "emotional intelligence and empathy".

"She is the ideal progressive persona - authentic, empathic, inclusive, durable and decisive," Sheppard wrote.

The National Party was criticised by The Spectator for running a "shambolic" campaign marred with infighting, "botched financial projections", "barely restrained resentment" over Collins' leadership style and policies announced on the fly. 

"For now, Jacinda Ardern is ascendant as the international darling of progressivism," he concluded.