Abroad, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand remains a leading Liberal figure. During a recent trip to the United States, she gave the commencement address at Harvard University, joked with Stephen Colbert and met President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. At each stop, she highlighted her successes in passing gun restrictions and dealing with the pandemic.
At home, Ardern’s star is fading. Rising food, fuel and rent prices are making life increasingly difficult for many New Zealanders, and an outburst of gang violence has shocked commuters unaccustomed to caring much about their safety.
More fundamentally, there is growing doubt that Ardern can deliver the ‘transformational’ change she promised on systemic issues, as housing prices soar to stratospheric levels, the country’s carbon emissions rise despite promises. of his government and child poverty rates remain stubbornly high.
Polls show his centre-left Labor party at its lowest level of support in five years, with elections looming in 2023. That, said Morgan Godfery, a liberal writer and senior lecturer in marketing at Otago University. of Dunedin, reflects a view that Ardern is “missing” on issues of concern to voters.
“New Zealanders seeing this day to day are frustrated with the lack of change,” Godfery said. “But if you look from abroad, you don’t see the lack of politics, you see the personality. And this is where the discrepancy comes in. »
The President of the Spanish Government @sanchezcastejon
met with the Prime Minister of New Zealand @jacindaardern to discuss bilateral relations and international affairs. Sánchez thanked New Zealand for its support for Ukraine and its collaboration with NATO pic.twitter.com/tmQvuCClks
— Embajada España NZ (@EmbajadaEspNZ) June 29, 2022
Ardern has forged an international profile as a progressive feminist and compassionate leader, who has stood out all the more as a wave of right-wing populism has swept through the United States and other countries. This allowed him to accumulate star power unusual for the leader of a small country.
During her first term, she received many accolades as she guided her country through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque massacre and by the emergence of the pandemic. Days after the mosque shooting, she announced a sweeping ban on military-style weapons. And after the arrival of the coronavirus, she took swift action to eradicate the virus through closures and border controls, largely preserving normal life.
His pandemic success helped his party secure an outright majority in parliament in the last election in October 2020 – the first time a party won a majority since the country switched to its current electoral system in 1993.
But it can also cause him current problems. As New Zealand has emerged from the pandemic with one of the lowest death rates in the world“there was a feeling that the government really can do the impossible by blocking a virus that is ravaging the rest of the world,” said Ben Thomas, a conservative commentator.
Now, with most of its virus restrictions lifted, Ardern’s government has lost its unifying fight against the pandemic and with it much of its bipartisan support. What remains is soaring inflation, rising gun violence and little progress on the issues that have plagued New Zealand for decades.
“The Prime Minister has gone from being untouchable – almost Olympian – to being an ordinary politician again,” Thomas said.
Ardern, 41, is one of many world leaders whose support has plummeted amid economic turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine and pandemic-related supply chain issues. Biden’s approval ratings are in the low 40s, and French President Emmanuel Macron lost his party’s parliamentary majority in an election marred by frustration over the cost of living.
New Zealand’s inflation rate of 6.9% is lower than 9.2% for the developed world as a whole, and Ardern responded to criticism by pointing to global pressures beyond his control.
“The whole world is experiencing the worst economic shock since the Great Depression, with the war in Ukraine and Covid-19 related supply chain issues adding to it with the worst spike in inflation in decades,” he said. said Andrew Campbell, spokesman for Ardern.
His government announced, among other measures, a payment of 350 New Zealand dollars ($220) to middle- and low-income New Zealanders to help mitigate increases in the cost of living. Many, however, view the government’s responses as inadequate and are dissatisfied with overseas comparisons.
“It’s not the government’s fault, but it’s the government’s problem,” Thomas said.
Ardern also found itself grappling with increasing gun violence, with at least 23 gang-related drive-by shootings reported in late May and early June as two formerly allied gangs battled for territory.
At times, police officers, who are usually unarmed in New Zealand, have been forced to carry guns in parts of Auckland, the country’s largest city. Ardern last week demoted her police minister, saying she had lost her “focus”.
Ardern’s struggles are the latest twist in a surprisingly rapid political rise.
After his sudden elevation to the Labor leadership in 2017, his party experienced a wave of “Jacindamania”, fueled by his new face and his promises of major reforms, to form a government with two small parties in an upset victory over the centre- national law. To party.
Three years later, in the next national election, 50.01% of voters backed Labour. Until February this year, polls showed the party still winning the support of up to 50% of voters.
That month, the government began easing coronavirus restrictions. As the pandemic fades as an issue, Labor now averages 35% support in the polls and the National Party stands at 40%. Including their allied parties, both sides are tied in the polls.
Political analysts are unsure if Ardern can make inroads on one of the longstanding issues to help improve his position.
Successive governments have failed to rein in an overheated housing market. The problem has intensified under Ardern’s government, with the average house price rising by 58% from 2017 to 2021. Last year, the average house price exceeded NZ$1 million, or 626 000 dollars.
The country has also struggled with persistent child poverty, which results in surprisingly high rates of rheumatic fever and lung disease for a developed country. In 2017, Ardern declared reducing child poverty a fundamental goal. Currently, 13.6% of New Zealand children live in poverty, down from 16.5% in 2018 but above the government’s target of 10.5%.
And despite Ardern’s promise to treat climate change as the “nuclear-free moment” of his generation, emissions have risen 2.2% since 2018.
New Zealand has just become one of the only countries in the world to declare climate change a global emergency.
Here is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s incredibly passionate statement on why the world needs to act.
—Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) December 5, 2020
Campbell said the government had made progress on major issues despite challenges from Covid-19. “We continued to address the long-term challenges facing our country, including overseeing the largest government housing program in decades, lifting tens of thousands of children out of poverty, and taking real action to the climate,” he said.
But Godfery, the liberal writer, said Ardern did not get enough help from his team to translate his rhetoric into policy.
Ardern “is a genuinely caring and compassionate person who has a deep commitment to issues of inequality, climate change and child poverty,” Godfery said. “But often that doesn’t translate into a concrete political agenda.”