FocusNovember 20202020Elections in the Age of Coronavirus

Focus on Elections During Coronavirus: New Zealand

Juliet Nangini
Staff Writer

Around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on leaders for their substantial efforts against the coronavirus. Many individuals have pointed to the astounding efforts of New Zealand to control COVID-19. Along with the international community, the country’s handling of the coronavirus was also praised by its citizens. This played an important role in the re-election of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who orchestrated early virus restrictions. Her immediate plan was to not just control the spread of the virus, but eliminate it entirely.

Ardern’s administration achieved success over the pandemic through coordination with science, says Forbes. Thus far, the country has reported only 25 deaths due to its early lockdown efforts, according to the Washington Post. The prime minister proactively set virus regulations before the country reported any cases by imposing a travel ban on individuals traveling from or through China, and later expanding the measures to closing borders to all non-citizens and non-residents. According to NBC News, she made “no apologies” for her actions. During that time in early February, her party was trailing behind the National Party—the country’s center-right party.

On April 16, Prime Minister Ardern declared, “We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved—elimination of the virus,” says TIME. Ardern’s “go hard, go early” approach to conquering the virus has not only resulted in a shockingly low number of deaths and cases, but also high numbers in the polls. A poll conducted in August reveals that “public confidence in health officials and the government to manage the pandemic was above 80 percent,” reveals an additional report by TIME.

The virus was eliminated for 102 days before an outbreak in August, according to NBC News. This new outbreak compromised the date of the original election, as many parties complained that they could not reach broad audiences due to the lockdowns imposed from the new rise of infections. The Election Commission was prepared to hold the election with proper sanitation and social distancing, but Ardern eventually moved the date, claiming, “Ultimately, the 17th of October… provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under,” reports Reuters. The prime minister’s landslide victory against the National Party led by Judith Collins resulted in a win of 49 percent of the vote and a majority in the Parliament, says NBC.

In addition to her efforts with the coronavirus, many also admire her response to the Christchurch terrorist attack of March 2019. Not long after the attack, she called for stricter gun laws on semi-automatic weapons.

The government’s successful efforts against the virus are no secret as Wellington, the country’s capital, recently held a rugby match against Australia with over 30,000 fans, says New York Times. The country also no longer mandates lockdowns, masks, or social distancing. With New Zealand emerging strongly as the pandemic still rages around the world, it is no surprise that Ardern’s management of the pandemic was a big influence that led to her reelection.

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