Jacinda Ardern Delays New Zealand’s Election Amid Coronavirus Spike
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed the country’s election due to a spike in coronavirus cases.
The election was initially set for September 19 but has now been pushed back a month to October 17. The 40-year-old had been under pressure to do so in recent days following a survey stating that 60% of the country favoured a delay.
The country had reportedly been coronavirus free for 102 days until there was a resurgence of the virus in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. As of yesterday, August 16, there were 69 active cases. Auckland was put into lockdown earlier last week.
In a news conference today, August 17, Ardern said:
Having weighed up all these factors and taken wide soundings, I have decided on balance to move the election by four weeks to 17 October. Ultimately, 17 October… provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under.
She added that they will be sticking to that date even if the virus continues to worsen in the country. Under law, the latest possible date the election can take place is November 21, so Ardern is still complying with the rules despite pushing it back four weeks.
Judith Collins, leader of the National Party (Ardern’s opposition) tweeted in favour of the Prime Minister’s decision.
The Prime Minister has announced that the new election date is 17 October. That is her decision. Right now the focus must be on finding out exactly what failed so catastrophically at the border so we can be sure it won’t happen again.
Despite New Zealand being one of the countries to best cope with the pandemic, Ardern is now under scrutiny for its return.
Richard Shaw, a politics professor at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, told The New York Times: ‘If it transpires that there was a considerable oversight, lax regulation or flawed implementation, that could have a very significant impact on the narrative.’
However, he added there is still a ‘deep reservoir of good will’ towards Ardern, and that her decision may see a 5% increase in her polls by making the announcement many people in New Zealand will have deemed appropriate. Her polls had previously skyrocketed following her decision to put the country into early lockdown in March this year.
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