Jacinda Ardern: The People’s Prime Minister!

The Labour Party's win in the recent general elections in New Zealand emphasises the achievements of  Jacinda Ardern’s leadership. If Ardern is one of the most respected world leaders today, it has something to do with the fact that she plays by her rules in traditional bastions of strongmen. At 37, Jacinda Arden was one of the youngest female prime ministers in the world, who discovered her pregnancy a few days after taking charge. A year later in 2018, she was attending the United Nations General Assembly with her three-month-old. Exuding a sense of confidence and composure while making 'unobvious' choices, she came to be seen as a leader of the modern age. 
Jacinda Ardern was expected to return to power. What has surprised the political pundits, however, is the massive public endorsement for Ms Ardern and her policies. Her Labour Party has won over 49 per cent of the vote — it has received the biggest ever mandate since New Zealand adopted the proportional representation system — and is expected to take over half the seats in Parliament. The electoral outcome can be explained by Ms Ardern’s decisive leadership and bold management of crises, be it the coronavirus pandemic or sectarian violence.
When most countries were struggling to implement strategies that could stop the spread of the infection, her government enforced a strict lockdown and closed the borders and began a rigorous process of testing and contact tracing. The lockdown was eventually lifted in June, with the World Health Organization offering high praise to the government's efforts to eliminate the virus and citing it as an example to the rest of the world. As on October 19, New Zealand has reported a positive case after 22 days of no new cases.
The virus may be down in New Zealand but it is not quite out; the economic costs of the pandemic have also been substantial. Ms Ardern, now saddled with greater expectations, cannot afford to slip on these battlefronts. Then, there is the worsening climate crisis, an issue that is central to Ms Ardern’s politics.
Ms Arden, who came to power in 2017 by forming a coalition with the Greens and the nationalist New Zealand First party, faced unprecedented challenges in her first term, from the Christchurch terrorist attack and White Island volcanic eruption to the COVID-19 outbreak. She herself had turned the polls into a de facto referendum on her government’s handling of the pandemic by calling it the ‘COVID election’.  New Zealand, home to over five million, recorded just 25 deaths—one of the lowest fatality rates in the world. It has eliminated community transmission by imposing strict lockdowns and brought back relative normalcy before the election.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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