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Ardern New Zealand responds to virus for election victory

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) – A day after winning a second term in a landslide victory, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that she sees the election result as an endorsement of her government’s efforts to destroy the coronavirus and restart the economy.

Speaking at a café near her Auckland home, Ardern said she expects to form a new government within three weeks and prioritize work on responding to the virus.

“We are colliding very fast with the work we have to do as a young team,” Ardern said.

Her comments came as health officials reported a new case of transmission to the community after New Zealand spent three weeks without any new infections. Officials said the man works on foreign ships in ports and they believe they caught his case early enough to contain the threat of further spread.

In the election, Ardern Liberal Labor Party received 49% of the vote, suppressing the Conservative National Party, which received 27%. Ardern said the victory margin exceeded their expectations.

The result will give Labor a full majority in Parliament, the first time a party from New Zealand has managed to implement a proportional voting system 24 years ago. Typically parties have formed alliances to govern, but this time Labor can do it alone.

Asked what she would say to those Americans who could take inspiration from her pre-election victory in the US, Ardern said she hoped people around the world would overcome the partisan divisions that elections often emphasize.

“This can be detrimental to democracy, regardless of where you sit,” she said.

Ardern’s popularity soared earlier this year as she led a successful effort to stop the virus from spreading by enforcing a tight blockade in late March. New Zealand has had less than 2,000 cases of the virus, including 25 deaths.

Ardern, 40, won the top spot in the 2017 election. The following year, she became only the second world leader to be born while in office. In 2019, she was praised for her empathic response to a massacre at two mosques in Christchurch in which a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshipers.

Arden said she would have been congratulated for her victory by a number of world leaders, including those from Britain, Denmark, Canada and Spain. Asked if she planned to run again in the next election, Ardern laughed.

“I just ran in 2020. I still haven’t got a weekend,” she said. “I’m enjoying the moment.”

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