Ardern to lead New Zealand liberal government

Leader of the Labour party Jacinda Ardern, center, arrives at a press conference with MPs Kelvin Davis, right and Craig Robertson at Parliament in Wellington on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2017

Ardern to lead New Zealand liberal government

WELLINGTON: Jacinda Ardern will be New Zealand’s next prime minister and hopes to take the country on a more liberal path following nine years of rule by the conservatives.
The outcome of a national election nearly a month ago only became clear Thursday after the small New Zealand First party decided to back Ardern’s liberal Labour Party.
Ardern, 37, will be the nation’s youngest leader in more than 150 years. She has been compared to other young, charismatic leaders such as President Emmanuel Macron in France and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canada.
Ardern wants to curb immigration, ban foreign speculators from buying homes and build thousands more affordable houses. She also wants to spend more money on health care and education, and clean up polluted waterways.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said his party’s choice was either “a modified status quo” with the incumbent conservatives or an option for change.
The liberal Green Party will support the coalition but won’t be a part of the government’s policy-setting Cabinet. The Green Party ratified the deal late Thursday.
Ardern said she wanted to lead a government that looked after the environment and the country’s most vulnerable people.
“It is an absolute honor and a privilege,” she said.
Outgoing Prime Minister Bill English, who appeared emotional, said he was naturally disappointed but felt he’d left New Zealand in good shape and that the country has plenty of opportunities ahead.
Asked how he rated Ardern, English noted her rapid rise.
“That’s a fairly remarkable performance given that just 10 or 12 weeks ago she was the deputy leader of a failing opposition.”
New Zealanders have been waiting since the Sept. 23 election to find out who will govern after the voting ended without a clear winner.
New Zealand’s currency fell by about 2 percent as the result became clear, with the New Zealand dollar trading at $0.70.
The policies of New Zealand First are nationalistic and eclectic. Peters wants to drastically reduce immigration and stop foreigners from buying farms. He opposed plans by English’s National Party to increase the pension age and plans by Labour to tax certain water users.
New Zealand First is expected to extract policy concessions and win some ministerial posts by joining the Labour coalition. Ardern said the details would be released in the coming days.
Peters said in his announcement that his party’s perception of how capitalism needs to change influenced its decision.
“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism not as their friend but as their foe, and they are not all wrong,” he said. “That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible, its human face.”
In his election campaign, English said his party has grown the economy and produced increasing budget surpluses which had benefited the nation.
Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, larger parties must typically form alliances with smaller parties to govern.
A government needs at least 61 seats to hold a majority in the 120-seat parliament. National won 56 seats, Labour won 46, New Zealand First won nine seats and the Green Party won eight.

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

Updated 33 min 3 sec ago

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

  • Development follows US President’s mediation in the dispute
  • Stand-off began in the first week of May when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake

NEW DELHI: After weeks of a border stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, New Delhi on Thursday announced it would resolve the matter diplomatically.

“India is engaged with China to peacefully resolve the matter. At the same time we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The development follows US President Donald Trump’s mediation in the dispute. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump said, “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute.”

The stand-off began when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake in the first week of May. According to Indian reports, Chinese troops set up dozens of tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A few days later, a Chinese patrol was stopped by Indian guards near the Nathula Pass in the Indian state of Sikkim. A troop build-up in the Ladakh and Sikkim areas followed the incidents. Reports suggested that 10,000 Chinese soldiers were sent to the border.

While New Delhi was still blaming China last week for “hindering” Indian patrols at the border, its Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that “the two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels.”

Foreign policy experts say that in the absence of any concrete information it is difficult to comment on whether any resolution is actually taking place.

“The whole region of Ladakh is undefined, there is no agreed LAC, in some areas they respect each other’s position, and in some areas they don’t, which is the crux of the problem,” Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“Geopolitical interests of both countries are at the center of the conflict,” Kondapalli said, “For India Ladakh is linked to its sovereignty. India has so many ongoing projects in that area. For China its ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes not far away from the region and connect to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. Besides, once American troops leave Afghanistan and a new regime takes over Kabul this might have its implications in the region.”

Manoj Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, said that from a geopolitical perspective both sides need stability at this time and the current situation on the border is not helping either of them.

“Beijing is facing challenges on many fronts, an economic slowdown, tensions with the US, international anger amid the pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, etc.,” he said. “Likewise, New Delhi’s interests lie in managing the COVID-19 outbreak at home and focusing on reviving the economy.”