BY SHIVANSHI BHADOURIA
Jacinda Ardern has managed to secure a second term as Prime Minister of New Zealand in a landslide victory where her center-left Labour Party won 49% of the votes against the National Party which secured only 27%.
While the statistics themselves are overwhelming proof of her popularity as a leader, Ms. Ardern’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was perhaps the greatest contributor to her being re-elected. New Zealand was under one of the strictest lockdowns at the onset of the pandemic, and the community transmission was quickly curtailed by the government’s response. Even now, when New Zealand is making its way back to normalcy, borders continue to remain closed and tourism is completely shut down.
Ms. Ardern is anything but a conventional politician. Her outlook differs from that of the current world leaders. On a global scale, she has been a vocal advocate of women’s rights, and social justice. She also possesses a unique charisma that allows her to appeal to the New Zealand masses as they continue to put faith in her government for a second time.
Jacinda Ardern is a liberal political leader – and a woman – in a world where some of the most powerful countries are led by right-wing ultranationalists – who are men. She has gained global popularity, and in many cases has become a symbol for young people all across the world. Her work in her home country with regard to LGBTQ+ rights, gun violence, and skilled crisis management has enabled people to put their faith in her once again. Recently, she has also hinted at the legalization of cannabis – which would make New Zealand only the third country in the world to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes in the world. Conservatives, as well as the right-wing opposition, are sure to hold this, coupled with the dire state of New Zealand’s economy to question her leadership time and again.
Ms. Ardern’s first term was not all successful, despite her victory in the 2020 election being historical. While coming to power the first time, the Labour Party vowed to bring about transformational change in economy and politics – and it has so far gotten nowhere on that promise. In this second term, the party seems determined to deliver on this promise.
In the coming term, New Zealand’s economy will be in a bind, and face perhaps one of its most difficult periods. With a drop as big as 12.2%, the comeback will be long and hard for the country. It is also important to note that New Zealand has a small population of a little over 48 lakhs, making the management of a pandemic not as difficult as that of bigger countries like the USA or, even India. Jacinda Ardern has a challenging term ahead of her, and this term will decide how the brand that her name has become will go from here on.
All said and done, she is a breath of fresh air and a symbol of progressive governance in a position of power. Ms. Ardern, with her ideals and political views, stands a solid chance to make a difference in today’s world and is also in a position to do so. Her life story itself continues to inspire people. Despite the shortcomings of her first term, the people of the island country have wholeheartedly welcomed her back for another term. That speaks volumes about the effect she has had on her fellow citizens.
It is possible that she becomes the first in a generation of female leaders who will bring about revolutionary changes in their governance. Whether that is a far-fetched dream, or a reality waiting to happen is a question only time will answer.