Plus ça Change
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The former prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who served from 2017 through early this year, became a global celebrity after she called for tough firearms laws following a terrorist attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch, and tough measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. She also became a powerhouse in Kiwi politics. In 2020, when she last ran for election, for instance, her Labour Party won by the most votes in 70 years.
But then Ardern stepped down, saying she was no longer up to the rigors of the job, and handed the reins to her Labour Party colleague Chris Hipkins, who is currently serving as prime minister. Now many of her former friends think they might need to call her back as Hipkins appears to be on the ropes ahead of New Zealand’s general election on Oct. 14, wrote Australian magazine Stuff.
The entire tenor of the political conversation in the country has changed since Ardern last stood for the election, wrote the New York Times. The domestic issues she championed – “pay equity, child poverty, and the prevention of domestic violence and harassment” – are not part of the conversation. Female politicians say they now receive more misogynistic threats.
The political winds have changed, too. The center-right National Party is now forecast to win 36 percent of the vote in contrast to 26 percent for the Labour, reported 1News, a New Zealand-based outlet. An upset is possible, however. Another poll showed, for example, that Hipkins and his main rival, National leader Christopher Luxon, each enjoyed popularity ratings of 29 percent, the New Zealand Herald wrote.
Luxon has been hammering the prime minister on his party’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Ardern imposed nationwide lockdowns and strict border controls, reported the Associated Press. These draconian measures were first praised as taking a zero-tolerance approach to the virus. They initially kept the death toll very low. But, eventually, they became untenable.
The prime minister repealed the last pandemic-related safety measures in August. Soon after, ironically, he contracted the sickness himself only two weeks before the polls opened, further undermining confidence in his reelection efforts. “Bugger!” he wrote on Instagram, according to the Guardian. “After a rough night I woke up this morning feeling pretty unwell and just got this test result.”
If the polls are correct, neither Luxon nor Hipkins will have sufficient votes to form a government without coalition partners, particularly New Zealand First. The populist political party’s leader, Winston Peters, has become a kingmaker who has helped form National as well as Labour governments in the past, explained Radio New Zealand.
Some things never change.