Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a favorite and is expected to hold office in Saturday’s general election in New Zealand, in a dispute against Judith Collins, leader of the National Party. According to surveys, Ardern’s Labor Party has a 15% advantage.
The current prime minister joined the Labor Party at the age of 18 and worked as an adviser to then Prime Minister Helen Clark. She became a legislator in 2008 and prime minister nine years later, at the age of 37. In 2018, she was the second world leader to give birth during her term.
Ardern’s popularity among New Zealanders has greatly increased by the way she has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, with the country being one of the least affected by the spread of the coronavirus and declaring itself free from the disease.
The prime minister implemented a strict block when only 100 cases had been registered, and appeared on TV daily giving news of the situation. In total, since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,524 cases and only 25 deaths.
New Zealand went as far as 102 days without any community transmission, before registering a second wave. In early October, it was declared free of contamination again, after 12 days without new records.
Internationally, she sparked praise for her performance after the massacre at a mosque in Christchurch in 2019, when, in addition to personally comforting relatives and friends of victims, she banned the sale of semi-automatic military-style weapons and rifles in the country.
New Zealand National Party leader Judith Collins holds baby during Rolleston campaign in July 30 photo – Photo: AP Photo / Mark Baker
New Zealand’s proportional voting system means that parties generally must form alliances to govern. Labor has a natural ally in the liberal Green Party, just as the National Party tends to ally with the libertarian ACT.
New Zealand First, led by Winston Peters, is considered a “wild card”, according to the Associated Press. In the last election, the party formed a coalition with Labor and Peters became deputy prime minister.
But polls indicate that New Zealand First will fight this time to return to Parliament and it is unclear whether Labor will have enough support to govern alone, something that has never happened in the 24 years since the proportional voting system was implemented.
In addition to voting for members of Parliament, New Zealanders are also expected to respond to two referendums this Saturday.
One of them is about the legalization of euthanasia (and assisted suicide) in some circumstances, contemplating people with terminal illnesses, who are likely to die within six months and who are experiencing “unbearable” suffering. If approved, it becomes law.
The other issue to be voted on is the legalization of marijuana, allowing people to buy up to 14 grams a day and grow two plants. In this case, however, if the majority votes in favor, legislators must still draft corresponding legislation.
Research points out that the legalization of euthanasia must be approved, while that of marijuana is not yet defined, according to the AP. Unlike the votes of the election, which will be released shortly after the polls close and the subsequent counting, the results of the referendums will only be counted and announced on October 30.