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 Labour leader won a thumping result in Saturday’s election, winning Labour a parliamentary majority for the first time since electoral reforms in 1996.
With 97 per cent of the party vote counted, Ms Ardern’s Labour was on 49 per cent of the vote, giving a return of 64 MPs in the 120-seat parliament.
She 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.”
Across town, the Greens were celebrating their own success.
Minor parties that go into government are often decimated by taking that decision: the Greens are the first party to increase their vote share after doing so.
In 2017, they polled 6.3 per cent of the vote, and after 96 per cent of the party vote in the 2020 poll, they were up to 7.5 per cent.
More impressively, political wunderkind Chloe Swarbrick appears to have pulled off a major coup, winning Auckland Central against the might of the major parties.
Co-leader James Shaw said he was “absolutely stoked” by the result, with his fellow co-leader Marama Davidson saying her “feet were a little bit off the ground. It’s an incredible night”.
On stage at his party function, Mr Shaw was elated.
“We’re still here! We are beyond thrilled to be able to say ‘we did it’.”
Analysts are inclined to believe Ms Ardern will invite the Greens into the government; efforts to build consensus are one of the hallmarks of her leadership.
Still, with hundreds of thousands of special votes yet to be counted and negotiations on possible roles for the Greens to be considered, a decision could be weeks away.
Ms Ardern has other decisions to make too, including a new foreign minister after the defeat of Winston Peters’ New Zealand First.
NZ First was the third of three parties in the Labour-led government, but will not be returned to parliament after missing the five per cent threshold.