New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been hailed around the world for her government’s swift action on Covid-19, which has helped New Zealand avoid the mass infections and deaths that have devastated the United States and Europe. Now voters in the country have responded to her leadership, handing Arderna and her Labor Party the biggest election victory in 50 years.
Ardern, 40, attracted international attention when she became prime minister in 2017, then one of the youngest women leaders in the world. Earlier this year, her center-left party looked set for a tight election due to a lack of progress on issues it promised to prioritize, such as housing and reducing child poverty, CNN reported.
Then came Kovid-19. Ardern responded quickly, with an early blockade that essentially eliminated the spread of the virus. She also spoke directly to New Zealanders with the warmth and empathy that other world leaders lacked, helping to allay New Zealanders’ concerns and take them on board with restrictions on coronavirus. To date, New Zealand has reported fewer than 2,000 cases and 25 deaths due to Covid-19.
In Saturday’s election, Ardern’s party intends to win 64 of the country’s 120 seats in parliament, according to Reuters. This would give the Labor Party strong control of the government, allowing it to run without the need to form a coalition, and giving Arderna and her allies more power than ever to determine New Zealand’s course through a pandemic and beyond.
“We will build better results thanks to the Kovid crisis,” Ardern said in a speech Saturday, using a slogan that was also used by the presidential campaign of former US Vice President Joe Biden. “It’s our opportunity.”
Ardern has always been popular abroad. She now has a home assignment.
Ardern has maintained high popularity around the world since her election, according to Damien Cave in the New York Times. Not only her youth attracted attention – she also became the first world leader in almost 30 years to have a child in office in 2018. . Her six-week parental leave has been hailed as groundbreaking, demonstrating the importance of paid parental leave at a time when many, especially in the United States, are trying to access this benefit. (In New Zealand, new parents can receive up to 26 weeks of paid government-funded leave).
But Ardern was not always as successful at home as she was popular abroad. By leading a coalition with the nationalist First Party of New Zealand, she is trying to fulfill progressive promises, such as making housing more affordable and tackling climate change, Cave said.
Then Covid-19 changed everything. Ardern was praised not only around the world, but also in New Zealand, where her rapid action meant that many children could return to school and adults to work, while in countries such as the United States, there was an outbreak of infections.
Meanwhile, her personal appeals to the New Zealanders against the background of the pandemic were praised for their immediacy and warmth. For example, in April, she assured the country’s children that both the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny were considered necessary workers.
Ardern’s response was largely the embodiment of one of her leadership mantras: “Be strong, be good.” Arder’s effectiveness, along with the backlash from Germany’s Angela Merkel, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen and others, has even led some to wonder whether women’s leaders are better able to cope with the pandemic than men’s leaders.
And now her constituents have voted to keep her behind the wheel as New Zealand continues to withstand Covid-19. With a majority in the country’s parliament, Labor will be able to form a one-party government that can give Arder more opportunities to meet its priorities than it has in the past.
Despite this mandate, Ardern’s second term will pose new challenges, including rebuilding an economy weakened by successive blockades and ensuring that a majority is able to deliver on its campaign promises. “It has significant political capital,” said Jennifer Curtin, director of the Institute for Public Policy at Auckland University. “She will have to keep her promises with greater substance.”
But Ardern says she’s ready to get to work. The campaign slogan that led to her victory was simple: “Let’s move on.”
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