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)
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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.


Five dead, three missing after Jakarta floods

Updated 26 February 2020

Five dead, three missing after Jakarta floods

  • The muddy deluge inundated the presidential palace, a major hospital and entire neighborhoods across Jakarta on Tuesday
  • Floodwaters reached more than a meter (three feet) in some parts of the capital but were receding by Wednesday

JAKARTA: Five people were killed, three more are missing and thousands are unable to return to their waterlogged homes after floods submerged parts of Indonesia’s capital, officials said Wednesday.

The muddy deluge inundated the presidential palace, a major hospital and entire neighborhoods across Jakarta on Tuesday, only weeks after 70 residents of the low-lying megacity died in some of the deadliest flooding in memory.

Two teenagers were among the five people drowned or electrocuted in hard-hit parts of the city, Indonesia’s national disaster agency said.

“The joint rescue team is still searching” for three other possible victims, agency spokesman Agus Wibowo told AFP, adding that nearly 20,000 people were staying in emergency shelters.

Floodwaters reached more than a meter (three feet) in some parts of the capital but were receding by Wednesday, a day after rescuers combed drenched districts in pontoon boats to locate vulnerable residents.

Parts of the city had ground to a halt as thousands of buildings were swamped, sparking power outages and disrupting commuter trains.

Jakarta, a sprawling city beleaguered by massive traffic jams and poor infrastructure, is prone to flooding during the annual wet season.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo last year unveiled plans to relocate the capital to an as yet unbuilt city on Borneo island.