New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is widely expected to win a second term at this weekend’s election, reports the UK Telegraph, pointing to polls showing the Labour Party comfortably in front.
In the final leadership debate on Thursday night, Ardern said she would step down as leader of the party if she loses Saturday’s vote.
“My message would be that if people don’t want to see me resign, then vote for Labour,” she told media after the debate.
However, the Telegraph reports this scenario is “highly unlikely”.
In a story headlined “Jacinda Ardern set to win majority in New Zealand election as ‘Jacindamania’ survives coronavirus test”, the paper points out a poll leaked earlier this week showed Labour’s approval rate at 50 per cent and the rival National falling to 29 per cent, and Ardern may even be able to cruise to an historic victory with an outright majority in parliament, something that hasn’t happened since 1996.
The Telegraph notes Ardern has been met with rapturous crowds on the campaign trail during the final throes of the campaign trail which has largely focussed on her popularity.
“While the election is seen largely as a referendum on her government’s response to Covid-19, Ardern has cast herself as an extraordinarily empathetic leader.
“She has won praise for her handling of disasters including the Christchurch mosque shooting in which 51 were killed by a terrorist, and the brutal rape and murder of British backpacker Grace Millane.”
The Telegraph noted Ardern told a crowd of supporters this week at Victoria University, Wellington: “I hope you can place your faith in us, so that we can keep doing what New Zealand needs right now. And so, that’s why I ask, please two ticks this year for Labour, bring us back, allow us to keep going.”
During the Covid-19 crisis, “only” 25 people in New Zealand have died from the virus, noted the report, with fewer than 2000 infected and the country’s “zero-Covid” strategy held up by some as a shining example.
During the country’s month-long lockdown, beginning in March, Ardern had suggested that “kindness” from all New Zealanders would help get its citizens through the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported National Party leader Judith Collins, on the other hand, earned the nickname “Crusher” after a policy she enacted while she was police minister to crush any cars people raced around the streets.
“Collins has sought to frame the election as one about the recovery of the economy from the impact and uncertainty of those lockdowns, but the message has not cut through,” the Telegraph‘s Charles Anderson writes.
“New Zealand recently went into recession, with the economy contracting 12.2 per cent in the June quarter – the largest drop since records began in 1987. At seven per cent, this was higher than Australia’s, but lower than in India, Singapore and the UK.
“Despite what has been dubbed ‘Jacindamania’,’ Ardern has long had a small but vocal band of critics at home. Early in her leadership she was labelled ‘Stardust’ and “part-time PM” by her critics, who accuse her of turning up more often on the cover of the Vogue magazine than in the corridors of parliament.
“Some suggest the extraordinary events that have shaped her first term – the pandemic, the Christchurch mosque shootings and the deadly White Island volcano explosion – have masked some shortcomings.”
The Telegraph noted a flagship affordable housing building programme was “set back by embarrassing blunders, and her government fell short of its aspirational goals of reducing child poverty and inequality”.
“Ardern has brushed off any failures in its delivery on having to deal with the country’s response to Covid-19. “
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