In the international community, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continues to shine as a leading liberal light. During her recent visit to the United States, she gave the commencement speech at Harvard, joked around with Stephen Colbert, and visited with President Biden in the Oval Office. She was sure to emphasise her achievements at each location, including the passage of gun control legislation and her management of the epidemic.
Ms. Ardern’s popularity is beginning to fade in her native country. Many people in New Zealand are having a harder time making ends meet because of rising costs for food, petrol, and rent. In addition, an increase in gang violence has stunned suburban residents who were not used to being too concerned about their safety.
More fundamentally, there are deepening doubts that Ms. Ardern can deliver the “transformational” change she promised on systemic problems. This is due to the fact that housing prices have reached stratospheric levels, the country’s carbon emissions have increased despite the pledges her government has made, and the child poverty rate has remained stubbornly high.
With elections coming up in 2023, public opinion surveys indicate that support for her center-left Labour Party is at its lowest level in five years. A liberal writer and senior professor in marketing at Otago University in Dunedin named Morgan Godfery said that this reflects a belief that Ms. Ardern is “missing in action” on the topics that people care about.
As a wave of right-wing populism spread over the United States and other nations, Jacinda Ardern developed a brand for herself internationally as a progressive feminist and a caring leader. This profile stood out even more than usual during this time period. It has enabled her to collect an extraordinary amount of star power for the head of a very little nation.
As she led her nation through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque slaughter as well while the onset of the epidemic, she garnered universal recognition during her first term as she served as Prime Minister. A few days after the massacres at the mosque, she made the announcement that all weapons with a military appearance would be banned. In addition, with the introduction of the coronavirus, she moved quickly to put in place measures to eradicate the virus, such as lockdowns and border restrictions, which allowed regular life to continue for the most part.
Her widespread success was a contributing factor in her party winning an absolute majority of seats in Parliament in the most recent election, which took place in October of 2020. This was the first time that any party had won a majority in Parliament since the country began using its current electoral system in 1993.
On the other hand, it might be the root of all of her problems right now. Conservative pundit Ben Thomas noted that when New Zealand emerged from the epidemic with one of the world’s lowest mortality rates, “there was a feeling the government really can achieve the impossible by holding up a virus that was killing the rest of the globe.”
Now that most of the viral restrictions have been relaxed, the administration of Ms. Ardern has lost her uniting battle against the pandemic and, along with it, a significant amount of the support it received from all parties. What is left is an inflation rate that is skyrocketing, an increase in gun violence, and very little progress on problems that have plagued New Zealand for decades.
Ms. Ardern, who is 41 years old, is one of several international leaders whose popularity has decreased as a result of the economic snarls generated by the conflict in Ukraine and the difficulties associated with the pandemic supply chain. The support ratings for Mr. Biden are in the low 40s, and in an election that was characterised by anger with the expense of living, President Emmanuel Macron of France lost his party’s legislative majority.
New Zealanders on middle- and low-incomes will each get a payment of 350 New Zealand dollars, which is equivalent to $220, as part of the steps her government has announced to assist mitigate the effects of rises in the cost of living. However, a significant number of people believe that the replies provided by the government are insufficient, and they are unsatisfied with international comparisons.
After her unexpected ascension to the leadership of the Labour Party in 2017, her party rode a wave of “Jacindamania,” which was fueled by her new look and promises of major reform, to form a government with two smaller parties in an upset victory over the center-right National Party. This victory gave the Labour Party the ability to govern with the support of two smaller parties.
An inflated property market has been unable to be brought under control by successive administrations. The situation has become much worse since Ms. Ardern took office, as seen by the increase in average property prices by 58 percent between 2017 and 2021. In New Zealand, the average price of a home was above one million New Zealand dollars (or $626,000) in the previous year.
In addition to this, there is a continuous problem of child poverty in the country, which contributes to rates of rheumatic fever and lung illnesses that are shockingly high for a wealthy nation. Ms. Ardern made the elimination of child poverty one of her primary priorities in 2017. 13.6 percent of New Zealand’s youngsters are living in poverty, which is down from 16.5 percent in 2018, but is still above than the government’s objective of 10.5 percent for this demographic.
According to Mr. Godfrey, Ms. Ardern “is a very loving and compassionate person who has a great commitment to problems of inequality, climate change, and child poverty.” “However, this often does not materialise into a tangible policy agenda.”