By Arun Srivastava
While the rightist forces across the world have been on the prowl to capture power in almost all the major countries and ravage the global peace and political economy, Jacinda Ardern led Labour Party of New Zealand had inflicted a significant rebuff to its effort and has come back to power once more.
Jacinda Ardern’s victory certainly cannot be viewed as a simple gain. It manifests her determination and conviction to defeat the rightwing forces. She delivered the biggest election victory for her Left Labour Party in half a century. Apparently the voters rewarded her for a decisive response to Covid-19, but it remains a fact that she pursued a different line and policy to tackle the pandemic than the line followed by the rightists and their lackeys.
It is not that New Zealand was not on the radar of the rightist forces. The public face of the rightist intrigue, Donald Trump has already been highly critical of her and her government. On some occasions he made veiled attack also. The primary reason was reluctance of Arden to follow in his footsteps and act as per neo liberal agenda.
It is worth mentioning of her speech at the UN general assembly in 2018 where she was highly critical of Trump. As the Prime Minister of New Zealand, she used her debut speech to the United Nations General Assembly to directly challenge the view of the world outlined by US President Donald Trump in his speech there earlier. Ardern’s speech was in stark contrast to one given by Trump. Making a complete departure from the rightist views of Donald Trump, she had called for a different world order one that puts “kindness” ahead of isolationism, rejection and racism.
Jacinda Ardern speech at the United Nation placed her among a “club” of world leaders who have taken a stand against Trump in their defence of multilateralism and rejection of his world view. Ardern acknowledged that the effects of globalisation had been “massive” for nations and “the people we serve”. She had said; “While that impact has been positive for many, for others it has not. The transitions our economies have made have often been jarring, and the consequences harsh. And so amongst unprecedented global economic growth, we have still seen a growing sense of isolation, dislocation, and a sense of insecurity and the erosion of hope.”
Just imagine a young prime minister, at least half of Donald’s age, openly throwing a challenge to his and US hegemony. In a call to arms against the retreat into protectionism and nationalism urged by Trump, Ardern warned that the consequences of abandoning institutional institutions and agreements – many of them now abandoned by the US – would be “catastrophic”. At a time when most of the world leaders, who claim to enjoy massive support of their people, are too eager to prostrate before him, this nature of challenge is beyond imagination. But she did challenge him. Her determination and conviction could be gauged from the simple fact that notwithstanding facing so much of problem she steered New Zealand in this hour of crisis and that is too without the help of any of the big capitalist and rightist countries.
The mandate means Ardern is in a position to form the first single-party government in decades and will face the challenge of delivering on the progressive transformation she promised. This is a historic shift and the vote is one of the biggest swings in New Zealand’s electoral history in 80 years. Labour is on the track to win 64 of the 120 seats in the country’s unicameral parliament, the highest by any party since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996.
The verdict has provided her the right opportunity to fulfil the promises made to her people that she would build an economy that works for everyone, create jobs, train people, protect the environment and address climate challenges and social inequalities. She summed up her vision; “We are living in an increasingly polarised world. A place where more and more have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view. I hope that with this election, New Zealand has shown that this is not who we are.”
National leaders were decimated in their strongholds by young Labour candidates who appealed to voters with progressive, democratic messages, and highlighted the party’s success in beating coronavirus.
Despite the verdict to pursue left policies, Ardern will continue to chart a centrist course, aiming to implement incremental change that she hopes will outlast a future change in government. This strategy also aims at hastening the process of implementation of the programmes without any hindrance. Politically this is a move to involve the centrist forces in nation building.
Of Ardern’s current coalition partners, the nationalist New Zealand First Party had 2.6% and the Green Party 7.6%. She is expected to continue to rely on the minor Greens while jettisoning New Zealand First. A Labour-Green coalition would be the first fully left-leaning government since the 1970s. Though the political analysts describe it as personal triumph for Jacinda Ardern’s ‘superstar’ popularity and brand, she on her part prefers to maintain a low profile.
Her handling of the corona crisis while burnished her reputation with “go hard, go early” approach she won global acclaim for her handling of a mass shooting last year by a white supremacist in Christchurch, with her inclusive “be strong, be kind” mantra and swift action to ban guns. Her tackling the pandemic has projected her as the most decisive and competent administrator. At a time whenthe UK, USA and other countries like Germany, France, Brazil Italy are on a weak turf in their fight against the corona, she has managed to overcome
Australians which have been feeling unhappy with their own conservative government have every reason to feel delighted and also be envious as their neighbour New Zealand has emerged as the bastion of progressive, forward looking, a compassionate left government.
Speculations are making round in the political circle that nearly 7 lakh New Zealanders who had migrated to Australia and other countries for life may have a rethink. They had left their country when the situation was not congenial for survival. Its is hoped that the second term of Ardern may witness spurt in economic activities and the people can expect higher incomes and better weather. Ardern is aware of this rise in aspiration and gearing up to meet the new challenges as unpreparedness may land her government in trouble.
Green supporter Suzanne Kendrick said the new government was full of “young, vibrant and interesting people”. “It’s time to move on from middle-aged people trying to hold on to the past,” Kendrick said, a claim Ardern laid at Collins’ feet, too, during the leaders debates. “And it’s a victory for the whole world, for liberal democracy, for those who believe in that sort of government and in the environment too.”
With her victory New Zealand also officially entered a recession, as a result of multiple lockdowns and closed borders. The tourism industry, construction and horticulture have taken significant knocks, and poverty and benefit numbers are on the rise, with the waiting list for state housing at record highs. There is little doubt that the pressure to deliver is high, and after promising transformational change in her first term, Ardern must now achieve it.
Peter Wilson, an economist, said voters will need more from Ardern than Covid action. “Voters have thanked Ardern for keeping the country safe from Covid-19. The next three years will be about economic recovery and the way the government deals with it, a very different challenge and arguably a more difficult one.” (IPA Service)