Ardern set for big election victory as voters reward Covid success by Bloomberg

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© Bloomberg. Judith Collins

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(Bloomberg) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern looks set for a resounding election victory on Saturday as voters applaud her masterful handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ardern’s Labor Party got 46% support in the latest opinion poll, while the main national opposition party had 31%. With its 8% ally the Green Party, the Labor Party is on the right track for a comfortable majority in parliament.

New Zealand’s success in crushing community transmission of Covid-19 stands in stark contrast to countries like the UK, the US and even neighboring Australia, where authorities are still fighting to contain the virus. This was not lost on the voters, who assaulted Ardern on the electoral trail in a repeat of the “Jacinda-mania” that accompanied his rise to power three years ago.

“For so many voters, it comes down to Ardern,” said Bryce Edwards, political analyst at Victoria University in Wellington. “His leadership during this crisis has led to what we are seeing, which is a landslide for Labor.”

Polling stations in the country of five million people close at 7 p.m. local time on Saturday and a provisional result is expected around midnight.

Jacinda-mania is back in New Zealand

Ardern, 40, has conquered the hallowed center of New Zealand politics with a blend of empathetic leadership and competent crisis management that has earned him fame overseas as well. The pandemic has given her a stage on which to display this leadership, stifling criticism that she failed to deliver on key promises during her first term.

Ardern has placed the government’s response to the pandemic at the forefront of his run for a second term, urging voters to trust him to keep the virus out and navigate an economic recovery.

His opponent, National Party leader Judith Collins, offered temporary tax cuts to stimulate growth while attacking Ardern for political failures.

The two main parties pledge to spend heavily on infrastructure to stimulate the economy. With public debt skyrocketing, Labor would impose a higher income tax rate of over NZ $ 180,000 ($ 120,000) per year to boost their income.

The challenges to be met are enormous. The border remains closed to foreigners, crippling the key tourism industry, and unemployment is expected to rise. But Collins, 61, has been unable to gain traction with voters still focused on the success of the Ardern pandemic.

The woman seeking to destroy political superstar Jacinda Ardern

In the battle against Covid-19, Ardern was alone among her Western peers to pursue an explicit elimination strategy and imposed one of the toughest national lockdowns in the world.

The economy suffered its most severe contraction since the Great Depression, falling 12.2% in the second quarter, but the lockdown wiped out the community’s spread of the virus and restrictions were lifted earlier than in many other countries. After more than 100 days without community transmission, an epidemic broke out in Auckland’s largest city, but it was also quickly eradicated.

New Zealand has now gone three weeks without any cases in the community, with all new infections limited to returning foreign travelers under mandatory quarantine. The country has only recorded 25 deaths from coronavirus.

Under Ardern, New Zealand took a nuanced foreign policy stance towards China, trying not to upset its largest trading partner while staying in line with the United States and other Western allies in the ‘Five Eyes alliance. This approach has so far helped it avoid the deterioration of Australia’s current relationship with Beijing.

Labor’s ascendancy under Ardern has eclipsed its current coalition partner New Zealand First, which, at 3%, is below the 5% it needs to get back to parliament. The elections therefore risk bringing the curtain down on the political career of its leader, Winston Peters, a maverick who often holds the balance of power.

The libertarian ACT party saw its fortunes increase at the expense of New Zealand first and the National. ACT had 8% support in the last poll.

Ardern’s cabinet is expected to switch to the left as Greens Eye Power

New Zealand’s proportional representation electoral system lends itself to coalitions, with no party having managed to secure an absolute majority since its introduction in 1996. Labor is expected to rule with the Greens, which could lead the next administration to tackle more of the government. problems such as poverty and climate change. actively.

Ardern has been criticized for failing to put in place the transformational government she promised at the start of her first term.

She scrapped plans to tax capital gains that could have bridged the growing gap between rich and poor. A program to build tens of thousands of new homes to help solve a housing crisis has failed to meet its targets, and environmental groups say its climate change policies are too docile.

“They have been shy about getting things done on poverty and housing,” said Shamubeel Eaqub, economist and public policy consultant at Sense Partners in Auckland. “But if you think there are risks on the horizon and that there will be more crises to deal with, you want someone who you think will be a good leader under pressure. I think Ardern has earned that trust and that trust.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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