Jacinda Ardern Won a Second Term?
New Zealand's Election
Voters head to Saturday's polls after a push that centered extensively on Ms. Ardern's good treatment of coronavirus outbreak.
SYDNEY, Australia — New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is worldwide successful, attracting gushing reviews and encouraging a radical fan base. She was praised for handling the pandemic, the Christchurch terrorist attack, and her first child's birth.
Today, Ms. Ardern 's star turn is expected to translate into home votes.
In this week's general election, she is predicted to return to office, with polling showing her Labor Party a safe double-digit lead over the more conservative National Party. A particularly good showing could also make Labor the country's first-majority government after a mid-1990s political reform that strengthened small parties and preferred coalitions.
But New Zealand 's weighted electoral system could also lead to some shocks, and Ms. Ardern 's proposals for a possible second term were unclear.
Here's how the campaign turned out, and what to look for when Saturday's results arrive.
What problems shape the race?
Support for Ms. Ardern has been rising for months, primarily because of her active coronavirus pandemic management.
She led a robust virus elimination program focusing on a "go strong, go early" strategy, with limits locked in early March, increased monitoring and touch monitoring, and a four-level warning system that explained what was expected of everybody.
Her daily briefings with Ashley Bloomfield, Health CEO, were partially appointment watching when Ms. Ardern deployed warmth and unity when letting science influence strategy.
She often interacted personally with her supporters, frequently turning to Facebook Live at night, clarifying complicated choices, answering questions and empathizing with what she termed New Zealand's "five-million squad."
New Zealanders, who warmed Ms. Ardern after last year's reaction to the Christchurch terrorist attacks and the White Island volcano explosion, were ever more devoted and proud as their prime minister were President Trump's antithesis and reaction to the pandemic.
New Zealand first declared May 's end of community virus transmission. After a new cluster appeared in August, the nation resorted to targeted lockdown in its largest city, Auckland, before the virus faded again.
The nation reported less than 2,000 cases and just 25 deaths.
"What happened before the epidemic no longer counted in this electoral campaign — the first two years no longer matter, and the only thing voters vote for is the next eight months, and which party will be the best and safest in the next three years," said Morgan Godfery, a political commentator specialized on topics concerning the Maori Indigenous. "And that's why Jacinda Ardern and the Labor Party are so popular — they're the only response."
Was New Zealanders content with Covid's Ardern?
It was a mixed picture. Ms. Ardern 's worldwide success as a political standard-bearer typically outpaced her home affection.
As recently as January, the election was supposed to be very close, partially because Ms. Ardern failed to meet several of her 2017 campaign promises — especially those linked to building a well-being-focused economy that narrows the divide between rich and poor.
Economic gap has hardly budged as property prices have continued to increase, pricing more and more New Zealanders out of the market. And government efforts to add supply did nothing to ease the crisis.
Labor vowed to expand housing supply by 100,000 in a decade, but lowered its own goal last year after constructing just 258 affordable houses.
Ms. Ardern pointed to a rise in minimum wage as proof of the dedication of her government, but generally the laws her government passed worked along the margins of the economy. Also the pandemic has yielded what analysts describe as an orthodox solution to stimulate infrastructure, small enterprises, and exports.
If she wins huge this time, what will she do in her second term?
Telling is tough. During the National Party chief Judith Collins initiative, Ms. Ardern was disciplined — and very ambiguous.
"It's a really state-of-the-art initiative. There are no major guarantees, "said Ben Thomas, a former press secretary of the National Party. "'We've kept you safe; we've steered New Zealand through Covid.'
Godfery agreed. "It wasn't at all clear — not in the debates where Jacinda Ardern tried to do her best not to talk about politics — what she stood for over the next three years, rather than what was already done," he said.
Election results can determine her boldness. If Labor gains a mandate, Ms. Ardern can potentially be more careful when she looks to hang on to typical supporters who have cast Labor ballots.
"Theoretically, she's now unshackled. She could do whatever she wished, "said Hartwich. "But I don't think she'd, because she'll think about the next election. The more popular she gets, the more centrist she'll be.
However, if Ms. Ardern and Labor have to form a minority government with the Greens, she may be moved to the left and moved faster.
Climate change is likely to become a greater priority, along with attempts to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and intergenerational income — problems that can be seen everywhere, but are increasingly urgent in New Zealand, where there is no capital gains tax, and poverty has become ingrained in areas of the nation. The cards could also contain more local autonomy for Maori groups.
"Working with the Greens would encourage her to broaden her repertoire on how to introduce policies that look after people," said Jennifer Curtin, director of the Auckland University Public Policy Institute. "She may have more space to enact the stuff she's aspired to in the vocabulary she's using."
What else do I know?
Fresh Zealanders can also decide two votes. First, voluntary euthanasia. The End of Life Decision Act will grant New Zealanders the opportunity to legally seek treatment to end their lives if they meet certain conditions, including a fatal disease that is expected to cause death within six months.
If it succeeds, as planned, New Zealand will become the sixth nation to allow assisted dying along with many U.S. and Australian nations.
The second vote, if approved, would allow marijuana recreation.
During the campaign, Ms. Ardern admitted her own marijuana use ("long ago," she said), putting her squarely in the mainstream.
According to independent reports, about 80% of New Zealanders have attempted marijuana — more than twice the average for Australians, and way above what Americans say. Yet polling show that the measure, which allows voters to approve particular laws rather than a general concept of legalization, is likely to fail. In polling, only Greens voters back the weed initiative by a broad margin.
Natasha Frost reported from Rotorua, New Zealand. Yan Zhuang contributed Melbourne, Australia analysis.