Millions in New Zealand are gearing up for the general elections. The polls were originally scheduled to begin in September but were delayed by a month after the second wave of coronavirus pandemic. Opinion polls favor PM Jacinda Ardern and put her on course to seal a second term I the office after her successful campaign against COVID-19 outbreak. But the big question that she now has to answer is will she secure an unprecedented parliamentary majority in the polls. No party in the country has outrightly won the majority since it adopted the parliamentary system known as MMP: Mixed Member Proportional representation in 1996.
Voting opened at 9:00 local time on Friday and will fold at 19:00. Over a million people have already casted their vote in early polls held on Oct 3. Apart from general election ballot, New Zealanders also have to fill the ballots in two referendums.
Will Ardern get an outright majority?
According to most analysts, Ardern is on course to win the second election and some opinion polls suggest that she may even clinch the outright majority, sweeping everything. However, one expert said this could be a “long shot” for her.
Professor Jennifer Curtin of the University of Auckland says there were instances in past when a leader was touted to secure the majority but couldn’t make it in the end.
“When John Key was leader, opinion polls put his chances at 50% of the vote… but on the day it didn’t work out,” she said.
“New Zealand voters are quite tactical in that they split their vote, and close to 30% give their party vote to a smaller party, which means it is still a long shot that Labour will win over 50% of the vote.”
Another analyst, Josh Van Veen said the he thinks the “most likely scenario” was that Labour would need to form a government with the Green party, one of the two allies with Labour partnered and went in to form the government in 2017. He adds that Ardern’s response to the pandemic has won her some extra points, adding that it was certainly possible that the public would have “rejected her if not for COVID-19”.
“At the beginning of the year… there was a very real perception she had failed to deliver on her promises. She was going to end child poverty and solve the housing crisis but did neither,” he said.
“My sense is that her popularity will decline once the election is over.”
Main issues that concern the voters
Ms. Ardern has vowed to introduce more climate-friendly policies if her term is renewed, increase funding for eth disadvantaged schools and raise the taxation on the 2% minority that is earning more than anybody in New Zealand. Looking to challenge her is Judith Colins nicked as “Crusher”. Vying for the PM seat, the 61-year-old former lawyer is a member of center-right National Party – one of the major stakeholders in country’s politics. National Party has pledged to increase investment in infrastructure and pay down debt and temporarily cut taxes if giver a term. But one of the key differences between National and Labour is difference in leadership styles of both leaders, assesses Van Veen.
“Ms. Ardern’s kind, empathetic leadership is about making people feel safe. Ms. Collins offers something else… [and] appeals to those who find Ms. Ardern patronizing and want to feel in control again,” he said.