New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern calls September election

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks to reporters at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Ardern announced the country’s general election would be held on Sept. 19. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 28 January 2020

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern calls September election

  • The center-left leader on Tuesday announced Kiwis would go to the polls on September 19
  • The New Zealand economy has struggled under low growth, while the cost of living has risen

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called a general election for September, in a vote that will test whether her widespread popularity overseas is matched by support at home.

The center-left leader on Tuesday announced Kiwis would go to the polls on September 19, two months ahead of the last possible date for the ballot, when she will seek a second three-year term.

“I will be asking New Zealanders to continue to support my leadership and the current direction of the government, which is grounded in stability, a strong economy and progress on the long term challenges facing New Zealand,” Ardern said.

The 39-year-old’s first term won her international fame — she became a mother while in office and received praise for her sensitive handling of the Christchurch mosques killings and the White Island volcano tragedy.

But while she has been feted overseas, opinion polls show her standing at home has slipped.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges has led the center-right National party into more populist territory, attacking Ardern over a land dispute with Maori groups and attacking her gun buy-back scheme introduced after Christchurch.

Ardern has also come under fire for her party’s long-running KiwiBuild scheme, which was designed to make owning a home more affordable by constructing 100,000 homes, but has so far failed to match expectations.

Bridges reacted to the election announcement by pledging to lead a government that “will deliver” on its promises

“New Zealanders know we will get things done, whether it’s more money in your pocket, a stronger economy, less tax, building infrastructure and roads or keeping families safer from increasing gang violence,” he said.

The most recently published opinion polls, both produced late last year, showed Bridge’s National Party ahead but Labour, with its New Zealand First and Green Party allies could muster enough support to remain in power.

The election announcement comes just days before the government is to announce details of a NZ $12 billion ($7.85 billion) infrastructure spending package designed to stimulate the economy.

The New Zealand economy has struggled under low growth, while the cost of living has risen.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the infrastructure spend to be released this week will target roads, rail, schools and health care projects across the country.

ANZ Bank’s latest economic outlook said this would add to an “improved domestic outlook” and it expected the central bank to keep the official cash rate on hold at 1.0 percent for the foreseeable future.

The poll date avoids school holidays and All Blacks matches, which are said to have a bearing on election outcomes.


US posts new record daily virus caseload of more than 65,000

Updated 1 min 43 sec ago

US posts new record daily virus caseload of more than 65,000

  • US has registered a total caseload of more than 3.1 million, with 133,195 deaths

WASHINGTON: The US on Thursday posted 65,551 new coronavirus cases, a record for a 24-hour period, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The previous daily record was Tuesday, at more than 60,200 cases in one day.
For a third day in a row, US deaths climbed by more than 800, the highest levels seen since early June, according to the tally. Florida reported a record increase of 120 deaths and California had 136 new fatalities, not far from a record of 149 set the previous day, according to the tally.

With California, Florida and Texas recently breaking records, hopes are fading for an economic rival and US stocks closed down about 1% as investors worry another lockdown will cripple businesses.
Even outside the nation’s three most populous states, cases are rising. Alabama, Montana and Wisconsin recorded their biggest one-day rise in cases ever on Thursday. Infections are increasing in 41 out of 50 states, according to a Reuters analysis of cases for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks.
The United States, the hardest-hit in the world by the pandemic, has a total caseload of more than 3.1 million, with 133,195 deaths, making some Americans hesitant to return to public spaces and patronize businesses despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to downplay the risks.
US President Donald Trump's re- election campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20 has been tagged by the head of the Tulsa-County Health Department to have "likely contributed"' to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases in the state.