As a Kiwi abroad, you quickly get used to questions. From hip Colombian nightclubs to the dismal departure lounges of East African airports and bustling Turkish bazaars, as soon as people hear you are from New Zealand, they can’t wait to share their unbridled enthusiasm for Jacinda Ardern. .
“We are very grateful for what she has done for the Muslim community,” a middle-aged Somali construction worker told The Daily Beast while sipping coffee in an outdoor market in Djibouti. His fame really reaches all corners of the globe.
Even New Zealand’s biggest exports are not immune. Sam Neill, the face of the world jurassic park phenomenon told TIME magazine: “Everywhere I go people say, ‘Do you think we could have Jacinda this week? Can we just borrow it for a while? ”
Ardern has become famous around the world for his spectacular handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Christchurch Mosque shooting last year. On Saturday, the first results showed her to an overwhelming re-elected majority with around 50% of the vote.
So will we finally see the transformational government that the Kiwis were promised? When she was elected prime minister in 2017, Ardern pledged a revolutionary government that would create a “fairer and more just New Zealand”.
On many of his political promises, his government has failed.
So how do you explain the electoral tidal wave that swept through New Zealand on Saturday? If the initial results hold, Labor will hold a majority government for the first time in the history of New Zealand’s MMP electoral system. The polls have suggested a landslide, but it seems they have underestimated it. It’s emphatic approval of his handling of the one issue that has dominated the campaign – Ardern’s leadership in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In New Zealand, life has already returned to normal. Kiwis look at the rest of the world with a mixture of horror and pity. Children crowd carefree in schools, young people dance and drink their nights in crowded clubs and bars. Thousands of people just watched the All Blacks take on the Australian rugby team in a crowded stadium with no mask in sight. Social distancing measures considered mandatory in the rest of the world are here considered eccentric.
“Aunt Jacinda,” as she affectionately calls her, is fully recognized. She applied a clear plan that she communicated with efficiency and empathy. “Go hard and go early” was his motto, making New Zealanders their “team of 5 million”. Eliminate the virus and we could get back to normal life as quickly as possible.
As many world leaders hesitated over their response to the pandemic, Ardern took decisive action. She ordered one of the toughest lockdowns in the world and slammed the borders. These tough but effective measures have enabled New Zealand to eliminate the virus almost completely. Only harsh border restrictions remain.
When a local outbreak in August threatened to undo all that progress, his government swung into action, locking up Auckland literally overnight. Once again, the virus has been canceled. She has been hailed by the World Health Organization, The Lancet, and celebrated by media around the world. Bloomberg called it a “masterclass in crisis management”. She did all of this as a woman in the macho, male-dominated environment of New Zealand politics, and she turned 40 less than three months ago.
Even before COVID-19 hit us, his compassionate and sensitive responses to the gruesome Christchurch Mosque massacre, as well as a volcanic eruption that killed 21 people on White Island, earned him worldwide acclaim. It was more than kind words that marked his answers. Less than a week after the shooting, she passed New Zealand’s most important gun control bill in a generation.
Even during the lowest times of his government, his ratings for personal leadership and reputation for honesty remained high. The National Conservative Party, on the other hand, has had a rather gloomy year in opposition and passed through three leaders in less than two months.
However, his ability to lead in a crisis corresponds to a record in terms of public policy that is decidedly mixed. It’s hard to remember that less than a year ago, the same month she graced the cover of TIME magazine, she fell behind in the polls against a deeply hated opposition leader. His personal popularity was waning and major initiatives on climate change, child poverty, infrastructure and affordable housing had failed. She had promised a “transformational” government that would change the lives of those who remain in New Zealand society.
Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has some of the most expensive housing in the world, which has precipitated a serious cost-of-living crisis. As prices accelerated, real estate in New Zealand has become a magnet for well-heeled foreign investors.
During his last election campaign in 2017, Ardern pledged strong action in favor of affordable housing. Chief among those projects was Kiwibuild, a well-intentioned but politically naïve program to build 100,000 affordable homes in ten years, which has now been scrapped. New Zealand construction experts always thought it was a pipe dream, but the promise was politically popular. Another infrastructure project, a tram system in Auckland, struggled to get started.
The COVID crisis has allowed Ardern to focus the elections on his leadership style, and in a world gone mad, empathy, pragmatism and frankly his sanity give Kiwis great comfort. Our chef is not suggesting that the virus will go away, perhaps with the help of a little bleach. Neither do we have a devilishly complex set of restrictions that vary so widely, even the UK Prime Minister who sets the rules can’t tell you what they are.
Yet there are also a number of deeply rooted issues in New Zealand society that its international reputation abroad has helped to cover up. New Zealand has by far the highest rate of adolescent suicide and obesity among 41 countries in the developed world. In terms of health and well-being, defined by UNICEF as “neonatal mortality, suicide, mental health, drunkenness and teenage pregnancy,” it languishes with Bulgaria and Chile in the bottom four. Here are some stats you never see in glossy New Zealand travel brochures. The problems affect society as a whole, but mainly affect disadvantaged young people of Maori and Pacific Island origin.
In his first election, Ardern pledged a NZ $ 5.3 billion (around US $ 3 billion) “family package” to reduce child poverty by 50% compared to his parliament. Still, the numbers remain stubborn.
There has been no statistically significant reduction in child poverty since Labor took office. Too many of New Zealand’s poorest children still go to school hungry.
There’s always the odd skeptic Jacinda, even though most audiences are just politicians trying to run against her. They complain that she was playing the pandemic on easy mode – an isolated country with a small, dispersed population made it easy to close borders and clear the virus. She was too young and inexperienced, they claim, having risen to the top of the Labor Party just four weeks before the 2017 election. This forced her to make pie policy commitments in the sky without knowing how they were doing. would take place in practice.
Perhaps Ardern’s greatest self-criticism concerns climate change. A millennial woman seemed uniquely placed to tackle what she described as the ‘crisis of our generation’. Climate change was, she said, “our nuclear-free moment”. It meant a clear chance for New Zealand to use its moral leadership on a matter of conscience and be an example to the world. After a series of compromises with both her coalition partners and the National Party, she ended up with a tough zero carbon bill that experts say will do next to nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand greenhouse. The climate crisis barely appeared as a problem in the leadership campaign. What was the great existential world crisis three years ago has been relegated to more pressing concerns.
Professor Bronwyn Hayward, United Nations Senior Author Special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a political scientist at the University of Canterbury, says New Zealand politicians have chosen to play it safe. “It’s not just Jacinda, the two main parties have avoided structural reforms and are fighting over central land,” she told the Daily Beast. “Overall, the campaign has been very conventional, seeing economic growth as the engine of the COVID recovery, for Labor a focus on investing in education and training with some concessions to low-emission labor of carbon and a gradual transition to greener energy. But politically, she is truly an incrementalist.
Ardern has gained worldwide fame and serious political power in his country with its swift response to the world’s largest pandemic in a century. She now has a chance to heal the epidemics of poverty and inequality that have plagued New Zealand society for generations. Professor Hayward said: “After tonight, once we get the election settled, the really hard work begins.”
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