Arden delays election over COVID-19 outbreak


New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed the election amid an outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

Speaking to reporters on Monday morning, Ms Ardern confirmed the election would be moved to October 17. It was initially scheduled to take place on September 19.

"I have thought about every single element of this and there are many, many knock-on effects," Ms Ardern said.

"Ultimately, I do need to provide certainty, a sense of fairness and a sense of comfort to voters that this will be a safe election."

She said there was no need to push the election date back even further.

Earlier, the country's Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters sided with the opposition, saying the country's general election and campaign needs to be "free and fair for all" and should be delayed.

But Ms Ardern said she was not pressured by anybody from within her party or otherwise.

"Ultimately this was my decision," she said.

New Zealand has experienced a spike of cases of community transmission in recent days after more than 100 days of reporting no community transmission.

Yesterday, New Zealand reported 12 new community cases, all in Auckland and all connected to existing cases. The country also reported one new case in managed isolation. The new cases take the country's total to 49 cases of community transmission.

"In this difficult time, the health and wellbeing of our team of five million must be our only focus," Mr Peters said in a video shared to Twitter.

"That's why, on learning of the COVID outbreak, I immediately suspended the New Zealand First Election Campaign. Health first, politics second.

"When we've got the information we need to better understand our health challenge then we can address the timing of the election."

The Prime Minister announced the original election date in February before the country had reported its first case of coronavirus.

 

"That's why, on learning of the COVID outbreak, I immediately suspended the New Zealand First Election Campaign. Health first, politics second.

"When we've got the information we need to better understand our health challenge then we can address the timing of the election."

Ms Ardern is due to announce whether the election will be postponed today.

The election is currently scheduled for September 19.

The Prime Minister announced the original election date in February before the country had reported its first case of coronavirus.

Jacinda Ardern called the election in February before New Zealand had reported its first case of coronavirus. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern called the election in February before New Zealand had reported its first case of coronavirus. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Last month, news.com.au reported a shock poll has showed Ms Ardern's Labour Party surging to an unprecedented level of support.

According to the Newshub-Reid Research poll, Labour is at an eye-watering 61 per cent, with the country's main opposition party, National, at just 25 per cent. The Greens have 5.7 per cent, and every other minor party is in the low single digits.

If the poll were replicated at the election on September 19, Labour would end up with 77 MPs, easily enough to govern without a coalition partner.

That practically never happens under New Zealand's "mixed member proportional" (MMP) electoral system. No party has ever won more than the 60 seats claimed by National in 2014, when it was led by John Key.

But just two days after she launched her "COVID election" campaign, as the country celebrated 100 days with no community transmission, Ms Ardern had to break the sobering news to Kiwis that four new cases had emerged.

The fresh outbreak could disrupt Ms Ardern's easy route to victory that was built on the country's coronavirus success.

"It could be very bad for the government" one commentator said.

Under the new lockdown, the campaigns have been suspended.

Originally published as Deputy PM's move against Jacinda



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