AUCKLAND, New Zealand – As polling closed in New Zealand on Saturday and counting was underway in the general election, early results suggested people favored a conservative change after six years of Liberal government led by Jacinda Ardern.
With one-third of the votes counted, former businessman Christopher Lacson is set to become the country’s next prime minister.
Ardern unexpectedly He went down As Prime Minister in January, she said she did not have “enough in the tank” to justify the job. In the last election, A LandslideBut his popularity waned as people grew weary of Covid-19 restrictions and inflation threatened the economy.
With his departure, Chris Hipkins, 45, has taken over as chairman. He previously served as education minister and led the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lacson’s National Party has 40% of the votes in the initial vote count. Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, Lacson, 53, was expected to form a coalition with the libertarian ACT Party.
Meanwhile, Labor under Hipkins won just 25% of the vote – half the proportion it did at the last election under Ardern.
The result will be particularly bitter if Labor survives, with National leading in Ardern’s old constituency of Mount Albert. The seat has long been a Labor stronghold and was held by another former Labor prime minister, Helen Clark.
Melissa Lee, the National Party candidate for the seat, told The Associated Press she was both excited and nervous about the final result in Mount Albert.
“It’s been Labor since 1946. “If we win it will be fantastic.”
Lee said that when Lee knocked on doors, people told him they were tired of the current government and worried about the state of the economy and spiraling costs of living.
David Farrer, a long-time Conservative pollster, said Labor still had a good chance of taking the seat once all the votes were counted. However, his initial impression of the nationwide vote was that it was turning out to be a “bloodbath” for the Left.
Luxon has promised tax cuts for middle-income earners and a crackdown on crime. Hipkins promised free dental care for the under-30s and elimination of sales taxes on fruits and vegetables.
The government’s relationship with indigenous Maori is also at stake in the election. Lacson has promised to abolish the Maori Health Commission, which he says creates two separate health systems. Hipkins said he was proud of such co-administration efforts and accused Lacson of condoning racism.
Within days of taking office in January, Hipkins found himself Dealing with a crisis Deadly floods and then a cyclone hit New Zealand. He quickly rejected some of Ardern’s more controversial policies and promised a “back to basics” focus on tackling the spiraling cost of living.
Warm spring weather in the biggest city, Auckland, appeared to encourage voters, with queues forming outside some polling stations. Early voting before Election Day was lower than in recent elections.
During the six-week election campaign, both Hipkins and Lacson traveled the country and hit it up for the cameras.
Earlier in the week, Lacson, who served as chief executive of both Unilever Canada and Air New Zealand, told a cheering crowd in Wellington that he would crack down on gangs.
“I have to tell you, crime is out of control in this country,” Lacson said. “We’re going to restore law and order, and we’re going to restore individual responsibility.”
Lacson was cheered when he promised to fix the capital’s gridlocked traffic with a new subway project.
Lacson is relatively new to politics, but has held his own against the more experienced Hipkins during televised debates, according to political observers. But Luxon also made a few gaffes during the 1News debate, such as when he was asked how much he spent on food each week.
His response, “About sixty rupees” (US$36), was mocked on social media as showing his out of touch with the cost of living.