Early on Saturday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a second term in an election landslide of epic proportions. Ardern’s liberal Labour Party won 49% of the vote while its main challenger, the conservative National Party, carried just 27% of the vote. The Labour Party now holds 64 out of the 120 seats in New Zealand’s parliament. The victory represents the Labour Party’s strongest showing since New Zealand restructured its electoral system to reflect a mixed-member proportional design in the mid ‘90s.
Prime Minister Ardern has been a hugely popular figure abroad, particularly in America where many progressives let down by the election of Donald Trump have taken refuge in the pioneering prime minister who at 37 became one of only two women ever to give birth while in office. Vogue labeled her the anti-Trump. Stephen Colbert flew across the world to attend a barbecue with her and Lorde. And after she moved quickly to pass legislation banning semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the Christchurch shootings, The New York Times ran an editorial under the headline, “America Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern.”
“This has not been an ordinary election, and it’s not an ordinary time,” said Ardern in her victory speech on Saturday night. “It’s been full of uncertainty and anxiety, and we set out to be an antidote to that.” The comment is a nod to the Prime Minister’s successful efforts to stamp out the coronavirus across the island nation of 5 million. As of now, there are zero cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, and residents are no longer required to social distance or wear masks. According to the New York Times, over 3,000 fans recently attended a rugby match between Australia and New Zealand in the country’s capital city of Wellington. Meanwhile, in the NFL, nearly a dozen football games have been rescheduled after a COVID-19 outbreak infected multiple players in the league.
In the spring, Prime Minister Ardern won praise across the globe for her “go hard, go early” approach to tackling the Coronavirus. New Zealand was one of the first countries to close its borders. In March, Ardern announced a nationwide lockdown despite there only being 102 cases. Everything from eating at local restaurants to stepping onto a neighbor’s lawn was banned, and New Zealanders complied without hesitation. Around the time she made the announcement, Ardern hosted a Facebook live video from her home. Looking relaxed in a camo green crewneck sweatshirt, the Prime Minister answered questions about the new restrictions and kindly encouraged her citizens to “stick to your bubbles.”
Back in America, our president took a slightly more divisive tone. “The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success,” Trump tweeted. “The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!”
The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success. The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2020
As a reminder, more than eight million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and nearly 220,000 have died. According to CNN, New Zealand has had fewer than 2,000 total cases of COVID-19 and only 25 deaths since the pandemic began. Asked why she voted for Ardern and the Labour Party, local resident Steph Cole told a New York Times reporter that Ardern’s handling of the pandemic helped convince her. “I just think Jacinda Ardern epitomizes everything a good leader should be,” said Cole.
The re-election of Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand offers hope to Americans that if someone can win an election based on their masterful handling of the coronavirus, then perhaps someone can lose an election for grossly bungling it. In New Zealand, a leader was re-elected because of the health and happiness of her citizens. In the United States, if we’re lucky, the massive and needless suffering of a quarter million people will be enough to force Trump out of office.
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