WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand is getting a liberal government under challenger Jacinda Ardern after a small party said Thursday it would join her coalition following an election nearly a month ago.
At 37 years old, Ardern will be the nation’s youngest leader in more than 150 years. She has been compared to other young, charismatic leaders such as President Emmanuel Macron in France and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canada.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said his party’s choice was either “a modified status quo” with the incumbent conservatives or a choice for change.
The liberal Green Party will support the coalition but won’t be a part of the government.
New Zealanders have been waiting since the Sept. 23 election to find out who will govern after the election ended without a clear winner.
The policies of New Zealand First are nationalistic and eclectic. Peters wants to drastically reduce immigration and stop foreigners from buying farms. He opposes plans by the incumbent National Party to increase the pension age and plans by Ardern’s Labour Party to tax certain water users.
New Zealand First is expected to extract policy concessions and some ministerial posts by joining the Labour coalition. Peters said in his announcement that his party’s perception of how capitalism needs to change influenced its decision.
“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism not as their friend but as their foe, and they are not all wrong,” he said at a news conference. “That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible, its human face.”
National has held power for the past nine years. Prime Minister Bill English says his party has grown the economy and produced increasing budget surpluses which benefit the nation.
English had said he thought National could form a strong government with New Zealand First.
Ardern says she wants to build thousands of affordable homes to combat runaway house prices, spend more money on health care and education, and clean up polluted waterways.
Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, larger parties must typically form alliances with smaller parties to govern.
A coalition needs at least 61 seats to hold a majority in the 120-seat parliament. National won 56 seats while the liberal bloc of Labour and the Green Party won 54. New Zealand First won nine seats. •