New Zealand’s Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has vowed to keep fighting.
But her party’s immediate future is no longer in her hands.
The full force of “Jacindamania” was on display at Auckland’s Aotea Centre, the attendees chanting and applauding so loudly as the 37-year-old party leader entered the building they drowned out and cut off the preceding speaker, party president Nigel Haworth.
He could eventually do naught but stop and introduce Ms Ardern as the audience leapt from their seats and rushed the stage.
Since she became leader seven weeks ago, Ardern’s popularity has carried Labour from 24 per cent in polls to a 36 per cent election result, leaving the party with the thinnest of hopes to form a government – if it can coax Winston Peters’ NZ First party to join a Greens-Labour coalition over one with National.
“The final outcome of tonight’s election wont be decided by us, but it will be decided by MMP (mixed-member proportional representation),” Ms Ardern the audience.
“Sometimes MMP leaves us with an outcome that requires a little bit of extra work. I simply cannot predict at this point what decisions other leaders will make.”
Ms Ardern said as leader she took responsibility for Labour’s 10-point loss.
“I haven’t done as well for (our voters) as I would have liked,” she told the crowd, who protested back loudly.
But she ended her address – neither a victory speech nor a concession – with the “relentless positivity” that has characterised her campaigning.
“No matter where tonight’s result takes us, I am committed to a future we can all be proud of, a future that is better,” she said to whistles and cheers of “we love you”.
“So let’s keep doing this.”
Other party members were also optimistic the result could improve in coming days.
Professor Haworth said the party couldn’t have done much better, given it changed leaders less than two months ago amid poor numbers.
“We’ve run such an extraordinary campaign and we’ve had such support, it would be very difficult for me to be depressed,” he said.