Jacinda Ardern on why Labour should form NZ's next government

Remigio Civitarese
Октября 17, 2020

In the final days of campaigning before New Zealand holds an election on Saturday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is being greeted like a rock star. But that didn't necessarily translate into domestic popularity for her party, which at the beginning of the year was trailing National.

An opinion poll on Thursday showed Ardern, 40, had a comfortable two-digit lead over her main rival, National Party leader Judith Collins, and was on course to win Saturday's election on the back of her success in tackling the novel coronavirus in New Zealand.

She was widely praised for her response to the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 people. And then came COVID-19.

After completing a communications degree, Ardern began her political career in former prime minister Helen Clark's office before heading to Britain to work as a policy adviser in Tony Blair's government.

New Zealand has had about 1,800 coronavirus infections and 25 deaths.

"Three years on, the phrase "Jacindamania" is exposed for what it always was, a deeply sexist put-down and in a way distraction really from the impact of an incredibly popular leader", University of Canterbury political science Professor Bronwyn Hayward said.

The prospect appears remote, with Labour enjoying a 15 point lead in the polls, but Ardern responded with a firm "No" when asked during a televised debate whether she would remain as opposition leader if the vote does not go her way. That has led to coalition governments ever since. Last election, the centrist New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters chose to make a deal with Labour, with the Greens in a support agreement, despite National having won the most seats.

Catherine Beard, executive director for ExportNZ, said: "I don't think it would matter too much who wins as to how the China-NZ relationship will be in the future because, despite any political posturing, there is not a lot of differences between the National or Labour party when it comes to trade policy and global relationships".

Ardern's public appearances during the campaign have seen her mobbed, especially by younger voters seeking selfies, amid calls of "we love you, Jacinda".

"Things are getting tight".

The latest figures mean Labour would have just 59 seats in parliament, short of the 61 needed to form a government on its own.

Other parties which might hold the balance of power, such as NZ First, are looking unlikely to make it to parliament.

New Zealanders are also poised to decide on two landmark social issues on Saturday: whether to legalize recreational marijuana and whether to legalize euthanasia.

The COVID-19 election or the recession election? With Peters gone, and the Greens more influential, she will move left in her second term, presaging a lost decade for our beloved cousins across the ditch.

"The most important issue for this election is economic recovery for New Zealand", Collins said in a recent TV debate with Ardern, adding tax cuts would be an "adrenaline pump into the heart of the economy".

Life has returned to normal in this country of five million and Ardern's popularity has skyrocketed as a result of her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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