AUCKLAND, New Zealand
New Zealand’s conservative former businessman Christopher Luxon has been elected as the country’s next prime minister after a decisive election victory. The election follows six years of a liberal government led by Jacinda Ardern. Luxon’s government’s composition remains uncertain as ballots are counted, but the city received applause and expressed gratitude for the nationwide vote for change.
His campaign slogan promised to get the country “back on track.” Outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who took over from Ardern in January, called Luxon to concede, but he urged supporters to be proud of what they achieved over the last six years.
Ardern stepped down as prime minister in January due to insufficient resources. Luxon’s National Party received 40% of the vote, and under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, it is expected to form an alliance with the libertarian ACT Party.
The Labour Party, led by leader Melissa Lee, is in a tight race for the old electorate seat of Mount Albert, which has been a Labour stronghold since 1946. The National Party candidate, Melissa Lee, expressed excitement but also nervousness about the final result in Mount Albert. She said people were tired of the current government and concerned about the economy and the spiraling cost of living. David Farrar, a conservative pollster, said there was a good chance that Labour would hold the seat once all votes were counted.
Luxon has promised tax cuts for middle-income earners and a crackdown on crime, while Hipkins has promised free dental care for people under 30 and the removal of sales taxes on fruit and vegetables. The government’s relationship with Indigenous Māori is also at stake, with Luxon threatening to axe the Māori Health Authority. Hipkins has accused Luxon of condoning racism and is proud of co-governance efforts.
Himkins faced a crisis after deadly floods and a cyclone hit New Zealand, and he quickly jettisoned some of Ardern’s more contentious policies and promised a “back to basics” approach focused on tackling the spiraling cost of living. Warm spring weather in Auckland seemed to encourage voters, with queues forming outside some polling places.
During the six-week election campaign, both Hipkins and Luxon traveled the country and made speeches for cameras. Luxon, former CEO of Unilever Canada and Air New Zealand, promised to crack down on gangs and restore law and order. He also promised to fix Wellington’s traffic issues with a new tunnel project. Although relatively new to politics, Luxon held his own against experienced Hipkins during televised debates. However, he made some gaffes, such as answering a 1News debate question about his weekly food spending, which was ridiculed on social media as showing he was out of touch with the cost of living.