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.


German far-right group planned Christchurch-style mosque attacks

Updated 17 February 2020

German far-right group planned Christchurch-style mosque attacks

  • The group, 12 of whom were detained on Friday, wanted to attack Muslim places of worship during prayers
  • The alleged leader of the group, which was known to the authorities and had been under observation, had detailed his plans at a meeting organized with his accomplices last week

BERLIN: Members of a far-right group arrested in Germany as part of a massive counter-terrorism investigation were planning large-scale attacks on mosques similar to the ones carried out in New Zealand last year, media reported on Sunday.

The group, 12 of whom were detained on Friday, wanted to attack Muslim places of worship during prayers, Der Spiegel magazine and the daily Bild said.

They planned to imitate the attacks in Christchurch in New Zealand in which 51 people were killed at two mosques and intended to use semi-automatic weapons.

The alleged leader of the group, which was known to the authorities and had been under observation, had detailed his plans at a meeting organized with his accomplices last week.

Investigators learned about it from someone who had infiltrated the group, the two publications said.

Investigators launched the raids to determine whether the suspects already had weapons or other supplies that could be used in an attack.

German authorities have turned increased attention to the country’s underground extreme right scene since the murder of conservative local politician Walter Luebcke last June and an October attack on a synagogue in eastern city Halle.