Who was New Zealand's Greatest Prime Minister
In the final minutes of the TV debate leading up to the parliamentary elections on Saturday, it became clear that Jacinda Ardern is very confident about her re-election as New Zealand Prime Minister. The moderator asked whether she would keep the leadership of the Labor Party in the event of an election defeat. Ardern replied with a clear: "No." After the TV show, the Prime Minister told reporters her message even more clearly: "If the people don't want me to resign, then they should vote for Labor."
So Ardern leaned far out of the window again in the final minutes of the election campaign. But: You can afford it. In the final polls by TV station 1 News, Labor received 46 percent of the vote, 15 percentage points ahead of the National Party and its top candidate Judith Collins. National and Labor-led governments have alternated in New Zealand since 1935, but the difference between the two parties has seldom been as clear as before this election.
In the three years since taking office, Ardern has managed to build considerable support in the country. In 2017 it was still 7.6 percentage points behind National, but through a coalition with the right-wing conservative party "NZ First" it was able to form a government bypassing the actual election winners. Ardern quickly became an international symbol for a progressive woman at the head of the state: After the birth of her daughter in June 2018, she took parental leave, appeared with her child a few months later at the General Assembly of the UN, ran at one Demonstration by women against US President Donald Trump and invited the American talk show host Stephen Colbert to his home. "Jacindamania", however, was and is above all an international phenomenon; Ardern was unable to keep most of the progressive promises for her own country. For this she is criticized in this year's election campaign.
Ardern wanted to reduce the child poverty of the many low-income families. She wanted to stand up for more social justice and introduce a strict environmental program. On most points, their government has fallen far short of expectations. Social housing policy, one of the biggest problem areas in the country, shows most clearly how far there is a gap between claims and reality: Ardern announced in 2017 that 100,000 affordable apartments will be available by 2027. Only 600 were built, then the minister responsible Megan Woods crushed the project as "overambitious".
The fact that the majority of New Zealanders will vote for Labor on Saturday has to do with the way Ardern has distinguished herself as a crisis manager during her three years in office. When a terrorist attacked two mosques in Christchurch in 2019 and shocked the country, Ardern united words and gestures. She did not even mention the terrorist's name after the attack, instead she turned her attention to the Muslim community and impressively emphasized New Zealand's cultural diversity as a country of immigration. When 21 people died in a volcanic eruption in December 2019, Ardern flew to the scene of the accident and hugged the helpers who had recovered the dead. "Aunty Jacinda", Aunty Jacinda, she was called for what sounds like a belittling, but is to be understood as a compliment in colorful New Zealand: Aunty is there for all of us.
The lack of chances for National and the brave fighting but next to Ardern looking pale Judith Collins solidified only in pandemic times. New Zealand's answer to the virus was a radical shutdown with the clear aim of eradicating Corona - and not living with it. That succeeded, with the exception of a brief outbreak in August, which led to the postponement of the election, which was actually planned for September. New Zealand is now almost corona-free again and is internationally recognized as a model country.
However, the long-term consequences are likely to be drastic, especially in economic terms: According to forecasts, trade and tourism, the two pillars of the economy, will take a long time to recover. And as much as Ardern was able to distinguish herself as a crisis manager in her first three years, the expectations of New Zealanders have increased. Especially because a second government is likely to emerge in a coalition with the Greens - which should encourage Ardern to think more progressively again.
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