Auckland in lockdown, elections delayed . . .
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday the decision to postpone the national election by four weeks, from its scheduled date of September 19 to October 17. The postponement is primarily caused by recent community outbreaks in Auckland, the country’s largest city, resulting in a return to alert level three, which includes closures of public spaces, encouraging work from home, and reducing bubbles to households. The election delay is supposed to allow the government to concentrate on the outbreak and prepare different scenarios for conducting the election in October. As of today, New Zealand has reported a total of 1,649 confirmed cases, 22 deaths, and 1,531 recoveries.
Official opposition party adds pressure . . .
Although opposition leaders are in favour of delaying the election, they have been critical of the government’s handling of the recent outbreak, especially the extreme lockdown measures. The National Party’s leader, Judith Collins, has demanded mandatory testing for all border workers and criticized the ineffectiveness of the government’s COVID Tracer app for contact-tracing. Since the lockdown measures prevent the opposition parties from campaigning, the National Party leader even suggested moving the election to next year. In the meantime, the government is introducing extensive testing, has deployed 500 defence force personnel to patrol quarantine hotels, and launched a fact-finding investigation on the recent outbreaks.
Labour Party still in lead . . .
Prime Minister Ardern has gained widespread support as her government successfully sealed off the country during the first wave of the pandemic by imposing a five-week, strict lockdown, which closed all businesses and required people to stay home. With current approval ratings over 60 per cent, her party would likely win the election without help from current coalition partners. But public perception of Ardern’s handling of the new outbreak may swing things in the opposition’s favour. Ardern has the power to further postpone the election date until early December, but as yet has rejected that move.