Jacinda Ardern has vowed to waste no time getting to work in her second term as prime minister, but one major decision looms that will shape her government.
The leader won a thumping result in Saturday's election, securing Labour a parliamentary majority for the first time since electoral reforms in 1996.
At the completion of counting on election night, Ms Ardern's Labour was on 49 per cent of the vote, giving a return of 64 MPs in the 120-seat parliament.
Up to half a million special votes - including overseas votes from Australia - will be counted in the next fortnight but are not expected to substantially change results.
Ms Ardern must now decide whether to keep governing with the Greens, which also increased its vote, or go it alone.
Unlike Australia, coalition governments are the norm in New Zealand. After elections, major parties spend weeks in negotiations with minor parties, courting their support to form a government.
It was how Ms Ardern came to power in 2017, when the Greens and populist outfit New Zealand First both pledged to support Labour rather than the National party, which won the highest party vote.
This time however, the shoe is on the other foot. It is Ms Ardern who can choose whether to invite the Greens in, or not.
"Results do demonstrate that we do have a clear mandate to lead," Ms Ardern said on Saturday night.
"On the question of (government) arrangements … that's something I want to take a little bit of time to consider and take stock of the results."
On Sunday morning finance minister and Ms Ardern's closest political ally Grant Robertson suggested Labour was well disposed to another coalition.
"Jacinda Ardern's leadership style is one to build consensus. We'll look to do that but we sought a very strong mandate for Labour and we got that," he told TVNZ.
World reacts to Ardern rout
Leaders and pundits around the world were lining up to congratulate the Kiwi Prime Minister, with praise coming from the head of the World Health Organisation to the Dalai Lama.
“Congratulations Jacina Ardern on your election victory; it’s very well deserved. Thank you for your outstanding leadership in the #COVID19 response. I look forward to continuing to work with you and your government,” tweeted WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Meanwhile the Dalai Lama praised the openness and warmth of the New Zealand leader.
“I congratulate Jacinda Ardern on her party's resounding victory in the New Zealand general election,” he wrote.
“I admire the courage, wisdom and leadership, as well as the calm, compassion and respect for others, she has shown in these challenging times.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau both congratulated Ms Ardern on her win, and thanked her for her focus on climate change, among other issues.
Congratulations, @JacindaArdern. Whether it’s fighting climate change, empowering women and girls around the world, or ensuring equitable vaccine distribution, I look forward to continuing our work together - and keeping the Canada-New Zealand friendship strong.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) October 17, 2020
Congratulations @jacindaardern for winning a second term as New Zealand PM. From our work together to tackle climate change to forging an exciting new trade partnership, the UK and NZ have great things to look forward to in the future.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 17, 2020
Many in the United States focused on the success New Zealand has had with containing the pandemic under her watch.
“It seems like Jacina Ardern’s ‘do a good job in office’ strategy paid off,” commented Vox founder and journalist Matthew Yglesias.
“Does Trump ever wonder if he should have tried to actually do his job?” wondered economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman in reacting to Ms Ardern’s win.
World leader who managed the pandemic transparently, scientifically, and successfully, is easily re-elected. https://t.co/o88fWbzUnL— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) October 17, 2020
If you’re looking for a model of next generation global progressive leadership, Jacinda Ardern is the place to start.— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) October 17, 2020
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a example of what truly great leadership looks like; connected to her citizens needs, decisive in her actions, clear about why she is taking action, compassionate, strong, listens to those she disagrees with. Is authentic. Is human. Is a leader. pic.twitter.com/xaCxAjfzGk— Dr. Jennifer Cassidy (@OxfordDiplomat) October 17, 2020
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