Ardern on course for landslide in New Zealand election

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was on track to achieve an unprecedented outright majority in New Zealand's general election Saturday, leveraging success battling Covid-19 to gain a second term and the chance to implement her reform agenda.

With one third of the vote counted, Ardern's centre-left Labour Party was on 50.6 percent and forecast to take around 66 seats in the 120-member parliament.

No leader has achieved an outright majority since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996, leading to a succession of multi-party governments.

While the figures are early, they exceed pre-election opinion polls and would represent Labour's strongest showing since 1946 if they remain consistent.

The opposition National Party was on 25.7 percent, or 33 seats, and appears headed for its worst result in nearly 20 years.

Labour president Claire Szabo attributed the performance to the charismatic Ardern, who sparked a wave of support dubbed "Jacinda-mania" when she took over the party in 2017 as it was languishing at 24 percent in the polls.