Wellington, New Zealand:
A fresh-faced Jacinda Ardern took office three years ago, promising “relentless determination” – and New Zealand’s leader has needed her in abundance as a series of disasters besieged the nation and tested her skills.
In a hectic first term, Ardern faced New Zealand’s worst terrorist attack, deadly volcanic eruption, the country’s deepest recession in more than 30 years and the common global threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She also had a baby on the way and became the international standard-bearer for progressive politics in an era of right-wing populist strong men.
Ardern had been in office for barely 18 months when a white gunman opened fire during Friday prayers in two Christchurch mosques, killing 51 Muslim worshipers and wounding another 40 on March 15 last year.
Her skillful and compassionate response to the gunman’s hatred shaped the image of the charismatic center-left leader around the world.
When she put on a headscarf after the shooting and comforted the families of the victims, it met with a worldwide response. She would later describe it as a spontaneous gesture of respect for the Muslim community.
But it also won praise for determined policy measures, including swiftly adopted gun law reforms and the urge to force social media giants to deal with online hate speech.
The New Zealand public took advantage of the October 17th general election to give her 40-year-old support and a second term of three years.
Ardern’s campaign focused heavily on her government’s success in containing the coronavirus. New Zealand recorded just 25 deaths out of a population of five million people.
She argued that only her center-left Labor party could be trusted to protect New Zealanders with a combination of strict border controls and widespread Covid-19 testing.
“This has been a really tough time for New Zealand – we’ve had a terrorist attack, a natural disaster and a global pandemic,” she said.
“But in these difficult times we have seen the best of us. We were able to overcome high hurdles and face great challenges because we are and because we had a plan.”
Life in New Zealand has largely returned to normal after a severe lockdown earlier this year, save for a brief outbreak in Auckland that has now been contained.
The success helped Ardern win what she dubbed the “Covid election” and the 55 percent personal approval rating she recorded in public opinion polls prior to voting shows the bond she has forged with fellow Kiwis during troubled times Has.
Ardern grew up in the hinterland of the North Island, where her father was a police officer. She attributes the shaping of her faith to the poverty she saw there.
She was raised a Mormon but left confidence in her 20s because of her anti-homosexuality stance.
After completing her communications degree, Ardern began her political career in the office of former Prime Minister Helen Clark before moving to the UK to work as a policy advisor in the Tony Blair government.
She was elected to parliament in 2008 and was named Labor Vice-Chair in March 2017. At the time, she said she was not ambitious and saw herself as an employee in the back room.
Ardern went from self-described policy nerd to prime minister on a wave of Jacinda mania after joining the Labor leadership just seven weeks before the 2017 elections.
A year later, she made headlines again when she was born in 1990 as the world‘s second female prime minister after the Pakistani Benazir Bhutto.
After Christchurch, she again offered consolation to the nation when White Island volcano (also known as Whakaari) erupted last December, killing 21 people and leaving dozens more horribly burned.
Ardern has consistently urged New Zealanders to be “friendly” during the coronavirus crisis and called for a unified approach from a “team of five million”.
A well-known fan is US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who last year kept Ardern under pressure as a model for compassion and grace.
“We have to make choices every day to channel our own inner Jacindas,” said Winfrey, advice many New Zealanders seem to have taken to heart in Saturday’s elections.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)