Politicians are believed to be selfish, hungry for power, ignorant, and untouchable. Jacinda Ardern seems to be the exact opposite. The Prime Minister of New Zealand made herself known to the global public with her strong speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, her immediate implementation of stricter gun laws after the terrorist attack at a mosque in Christchurch in 2019, and her successful fight against Covid-19 in 2020. During her first legislation, she has proven to be a strong leader in times of national and global crisis. In the general election in October, she got rewarded for her phenomenal job on dealing with the coronavirus and won a landslide victory.
While most leaders in the world are to be addressed as “Mr. President”, “Mr. Prime Minister” or “Mrs. Chancellor”, New Zealanders just call their Prime Minister “Jacinda”. It humanizes her and brings her closer to the people. Through her social media accounts, the leader of the Labor-Party gives personal insights into her daily life as a politician, mother, and citizen to be more approachable. She is also not afraid of going on the streets and talking to the people. Her appearance in a hijab after the horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch where 50 people were shot by an Islamophobic maniac, is unforgettable. And when Covid-19 started to affect the national economy, Jacinda and her ministers immediately took a salary cut in solidarity with those who were financially hit by the crisis.
The first single-party majority government since 1993
Her behavior and attitude are undoubtedly exemplary and unique in the political world. But what about her performance on policies? While she was globally congratulated for handling the outcome of the Christchurch-attack and the Covid-19 crisis, Jacinda has also been progressive when it comes to climate change. Her government is pursuing the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement including a zero-carbon bill and banning plastic bags.
On the other hand, she has not been able to fulfill a central part of her last campaign: affordable housing. The last election was influenced by stories of homeless people and poor families who had to sleep in their cars because they could not afford to rent a place. The KiwiBuild policy, which aimed to build 100’000 new houses in ten years, had to be reset due to its failure. Additionally, the Labor Party had to deal with an internal sex scandal.
Nonetheless, in the general election in October, Jacinda Ardern led the centre-left Labour Party to a historic victory and is likely to form the first single-party majority government in New Zealand since 1993. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many New Zealanders doubted that Jacinda would be more than just a one-term prime minister. However, her ability to make New Zealanders feel safe during the pandemic has probably been the main reason for her landslide victory.
When Jacinda Ardern appeared in the late-night show “The Late Show” with Steven Colbert in 2018, the host could not hide his admiration for her and the regret that she was not his commander in chief. However, in a globalized world, one successful silver lining could quickly turn into a silver comet that swooshes over the world of politics. Even from a small and remote country such as New Zealand. The brighter the lining, the stronger the power of shining.