Election in New Zealand: Jacinda Ardern wins a landslide victory
International Desk || shiningbd
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won a landslide victory in the country's general election. News BBC
With most ballots tallied, Ms Ardern's Labour Party has won 49 percent of the vote and she is projected to win a rare outright parliamentary majority.
The opposition centre-right National Party, currently on 27%, has admitted defeat in Saturday's poll.
The vote was originally due to be in September, but was postponed by a month after a renewed Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
The polls opened at 09:00 local time (20:00 GMT Friday) and closed at 19:00. More than a million people had already voted in early polling which opened up on 3 October.
New Zealanders were also asked to vote in two referendums alongside the general election. According to the Electoral Commission, the Labour Party are on 49 percent of the vote, followed by the National Party on 27 percent, and the ACT New Zealand and Green parties on 8 percent.
"New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in almost 50 years," Ms Ardern told her supporters after the victory. "We will not take your support for granted. And I can promise you we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander."
National Party leader Judith Collins has congratulated Ms Ardern and promised her party would be a "robust opposition".
"Three years will be gone in the blink of an eye," she said, referring to the next scheduled election. "We will be back."
Ms Ardern's Labour Party is projected to win 64 seats - enough for an outright majority. No party has managed to do so in New Zealand since it introduced a voting system known as Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) in 1996.
Before the vote, experts doubted whether the Labour Party could win such a majority.
Professor Jennifer Curtin of the University of Auckland said previous party leaders had been tipped to win a majority, but failed to do so.
"New Zealand voters are quite tactical in that they split their vote, and close to 30% give their party vote to a smaller party, which means it is still a long shot that Labour will win over 50% of the vote."
Ms Ardern pledged to instil more climate-friendly policies, boost funding for disadvantaged schools and raise income taxes on top earners.
Ms Collins and the National Party had pledged to increase investment in infrastructure, pay down debt and temporarily reduce taxes.
Aside from choosing their preferred candidate and party, New Zealanders were also asked to vote in two referendums: the end of life choice on euthanasia and cannabis legalization.
New Zealand Electoral Commission information materials on the End of Life Choice (euthanasia) and Cannabis Legalization and Control referendums, voted on as part of Election 2020.
The first aims to give terminally ill people the option of requesting assisting dying. This is a binding vote, which means it will be enacted if more than 50 percent vote "yes".
The second is over whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal.
This, however, is not binding - which means even if a majority of people vote "yes" - cannabis might not become legal straight away. It would still be up to the incoming government to introduce a bill to legalese this.
The Electoral Commission will announce preliminary results for both on 30 October.