New Zealand PM Ardern’s approval rating rises to highest since taking office

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media during a press conference at the Justice Precinct in Christchurch on March 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2019
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New Zealand PM Ardern’s approval rating rises to highest since taking office

  • Ardern burst into prominence after her coalition ended 10 years of National Party’s center right rule, promising more money for social services and by vowing to tighten foreign investment rules

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was praised at home and abroad for her handling of the Christchurch mosques shooting last month, received her highest approval rating since taking office in a widely watched poll on Monday.
The 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton political survey showed 51 percent of respondents said Ardern was their preferred prime minister, climbing seven percentage points from the last poll in February.
Its the first political survey since a lone gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15.
Ratings for Ardern’s rival, opposition National Party leader Simon Bridges, dropped one percentage point to five percent.
Party vote results also showed Ardern’s Labour Party rising three percentage points to 48 percent while the National’s rating dropping to its lowest since September 2017, at 40 percent.
“All I know is that I’m doing my job to the best of my ability,” Ardern told 1News when asked about the poll result.
Since coming to power in 2017, Ardern’s coalition government has faced several challenges including weak business confidence, emboldened unions and a slowing economy. Her youth and global celebrity has also given critics doubt.
But the 38-year-old leader struck all the right notes in the hours after the Christchurch attack.
Ardern promptly labelled the mass killing as terrorism, and set about reassuring a nation that has been largely unscathed by the violence and fears that have afflicted other countries in the past two decades.
Picture of Ardern’s wearing a head scarf and comforting families affected by the massacre went viral on the social media, and garnered praises from Muslims around the world, as well as leaders of other nations.
She also successfully passed a contentious gun law within a month of the shooting, which banned semi-autmatic weapons.
Ardern burst into prominence after her coalition ended 10 years of National Party’s center right rule, promising more money for social services and by vowing to tighten foreign investment rules.
She rocketed to global celebrity as an inspiration for women after the unexpected election win, and she became only the second leader to give birth while in office since Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto.
The poll was taken from April 6 to April 10, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, the polling agency said.


French police hunt suspect after Lyon bomb ‘attack’

Updated 22 min 49 sec ago
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French police hunt suspect after Lyon bomb ‘attack’

  • Police issued an appeal for witnesses on Twitter as they sought the man believed to be in his early 30s
  • Justice minister Nicole Belloubet told BFM television it was too soon to say whether the blast was a “terrorist act”

LYON: Police in France were on Saturday hunting a suspect following a blast in a pedestrian street in the heart of Lyon that lightly wounded 13 people two days ahead of hotly contested European Parliament elections.
President Emmanuel Macron called the Friday evening explosion, from a package believed to have been packed with shrapnel, an “attack” and sent interior minister Christophe Castaner to Lyon.
Police issued an appeal for witnesses on Twitter as they sought the man believed to be in his early 30s, who was picked up by security cameras on a mountain bicycle immediately before the explosion.
An image of the suspect, wearing light-colored shorts and a longsleeved dark top, was posted. He was described as “dangerous.”
Justice minister Nicole Belloubet told BFM television it was too soon to say whether the blast was a “terrorist act.”
The case was nonetheless handed to the Paris prosecutor for anti-terrorism that deal with all terrorist cases.
The number of wounded stood at 13 people, with 11 taken to hospitals. None of the injuries was life-threatening but included eight women and a 10-year-old girl as well as four men.
A police source said the package contained “screws or bolts.” It had been placed in front of a bakery near a busy corner of two crowded streets at around 17:30 p.m. (1530 GMT).
District mayor Denis Broliquier said “the charge was too small to kill,” and an administrative source told AFP it was a “relatively weak explosive charge” that was triggered at a distance.
The blast occurred on a narrow strip of land between the Saone and Rhone rivers in the historic center of the southeast city. The area was evacuated and cordoned off by police.
“There was an explosion and I thought it was a car crash,” said Eva, a 17-year-old student who was about 15 meters (50 feet) from the blast site.
“There were bits of electric wire near me, and batteries and bits of cardboard and plastic. The windows were blown out,” he said.
“I was working, serving customers, and all of a sudden there was a huge ‘boom’,” said Omar Ghezza, a baker who works nearby.
“We thought it had something to do with renovation work. But in fact it was an abandoned package,” he said.
France has been on high alert following a wave of deadly terror attacks since 2015 which have killed more than 250 people.
“It’s an area in the very center of Lyon, a major street,” the city’s deputy mayor in charge of security, Jean-Yves Secheresse, told BFM television.
“These areas are highly secured, the police are continually present,” as were patrols by soldiers deployed in a long-running anti-terror operation, he said.
Lyon is the third-biggest city in Francewith extensive suburbs and a poplation of 2.3 million.
The most recent package bomb in France dates back to December 2007, when an explosion in front of a law office in Paris killed one person and injured another. Police never found who carried out that attack.