New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern poised for big win in election

(Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s party is projected to be one seat short of a being able to govern alone, and has a double-digit lead over its rival, with just over a week to the general election, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.

The closely watched 1News-Colmar Brunton poll showed support for Ardern’s Labour party, which is seeking a second term in office, at 47%, unchanged from the last poll on Sept. 28.

This means Labour, which is campaigning on its record of bringing the coronavirus pandemic under control within New Zealand’s borders, would have 60 seats in parliament, one short of the 61 seats needed to form a government.

Support for its coalition partner the Green Party was at 6%, which would give it eight seats.

New Zealand heads to the polls on Oct. 17 and advance voting began on Saturday.

The main opposition National Party got 32% support, failing to close a 15 percentage point gap between the parties, despite the tough-talking conservative leader Judith Collins claiming to have won two live debates with Ardern.

Ardern’s popularity as preferred prime minister dropped four percentage points to 50%, while Collins was unchanged at 23%.

Smaller parties also continued to gain more support with ACT Party at 8% and New Zealand First inching up slightly to 2%.

All recent polls have pointed to a victory for Ardern’s Labour Party, governing in a coalition with the Greens and New Zealand First.

Ardern, 40, has won support at home and global admiration for her response to last year’s attack by a white supremacist on two mosques, a fatal volcanic eruption and her success in tackling the coronavirus.

She declared this week that New Zealand has eliminated COVID-19 from the community, again, as a second wave of infections in Auckland had been contained.