Expatriate New Zealanders seen boosting Ardern’s election bid

Expatriate New Zealanders seen boosting Ardern’s election bid
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern participates in a televised debate with National leader Judith Collins at TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, Sept. 22, 2020. (File/Reuters)
Updated 30 September 2020

Expatriate New Zealanders seen boosting Ardern’s election bid

Expatriate New Zealanders seen boosting Ardern’s election bid

WELLINGTON: When recently returned New Zealander Lara Barclay talked to fellow Kiwi expatriates in Australia, it was her country’s success in tackling coronavirus that came up again and again and the crisis role of prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
Support from New Zealand’s million-strong diaspora — equal to a fifth of the country’s resident population — could prove a surprise boost for Ardern as the Labour Party leader seeks re-election at an Oct. 17 poll.
“They thought New Zealand’s response was fantastic,” said Barclay, a victim support worker. “Every New Zealander I knew in Australia bar one ... were super impressed by New Zealand’s response and by Jacinda.”
Labour is widely expected to retain power next month and hopes to rule without the support of a coalition partner, although the opposition National Party has been clawing back support in recent polls.
Overseas polling began on Wednesday, but a big unknown is how many expatriates will actually vote.
Just 10% of eligible overseas voters cast their vote in the last election in 2017, but analysts say Ardern’s global profile from her promotion of issues such as social justice and equality, may draw more support.
“Ardern’s got on to the front pages of world media and has been covered in way that no other New Zealand prime minister has been before,” said Geoffrey Miller, analyst at the political website Democracy Project.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if more New Zealanders living overseas decide to vote for Ardern, or may be just decide to vote in general,” he said.
Tough restrictions to contain coronavirus limited New Zealand’s total cases to less than 1,500 and just 25 deaths, far fewer than other developed nations, and the virus is largely contained.
The quick crisis response follows plaudits for 40-year-old Ardern’s compassionate and inclusive response to an attack by a white supremacist at two mosques as well as a fatal volcanic eruption.
She is even tipped as a front runner to win the Nobel Peace prize, according to a UK betting agency.

DOMESTIC DIFFICULTIES
Ardern won’t have it all her own way. Analysts say Labour has largely failed on its big ticket policy promises like providing affordable housing, reforming tax and building key infrastructure.
She faces National Party leader Judith Collins, known as “Crusher Collins’ for her tough-talking personality, who took over as leader in July.
Collins, 61, is a seasoned politician well known to the electorate, who is mostly associated with issues such as law and order, and infrastructure.
She has made efforts to connect more strongly with the farming community, but her appeal remains local while Ardern is known for how she portrays New Zealand to the world, said Richard Shaw, of Massey University.
“Ardern has turned that feeling right up to maximum volume, while Collins does not get any play in that space,” Shaw said.
About 67,000 New Zealand voters have so far enrolled overseas, election officials said. This compares with about 61,000 who voted in the 2017 election, out of about 2.6 million votes in total.
Voters still have until mid-October to register and referendums on legalizing cannabis and euthanasia could encourage more to take part. The majority of those enrolled are in Australia, at nearly 60%, followed by the UK at 17% and more than 6% in the United States.
With the latest polls showing support for Labour at 47%, Ardern has urged New Zealanders in Australia to vote.
“Every single vote counts, including those Kiwis in Australia,” she told broadcaster Channel Nine. “They’re almost the equivalent to a seat.”


Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 2 min 29 sec ago

Charity rescue ship carrying 373 African migrants docks in Sicily

The Ocean Viking ship seen from the Italian island of Lampedusa, Sicily. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities
  • Many migrants recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya

ROME: A charity rescue ship carrying 373 migrants picked up off the Libyan coast has been allowed to dock in the Italian port of Augusta, in Sicily.

The Ocean Viking vessel had been waiting in heavy swells to get clearance from authorities for its passengers to disembark.

The migrants — who included 165 children of which 21 were aged under four — had been plucked from four packed dinghies and were mostly from south Saharan countries in Africa. They had told rescuers they were fleeing from camps in Libya where they feared for their lives.

Many recounted stories of alleged abuses suffered in Libya, with some having already attempted sea crossings to Europe only to be intercepted and transported back to the Libyan camps.

One of those rescued, Kylian, 19, from Mali, told Arab News: “In Libya we were all crammed into one home and we weren’t free to go where we wanted. I was out when bandits came, and I wanted to run to warn the others in the camp. When they fired, I fell to the ground. They thought that I was dead, and they just left me there.”

The man said he was wounded but could not access medical care in the camp. “I thought I was going to die. This happens all the time in Libya. I was finally treated because a friend took me to a Cameroonian woman who was doctor.”

The teenager was speaking on the phone of a volunteer from the maritime humanitarian organization SOS Mediterranee. All the migrants will be transferred to a quarantine ship after being tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Luisa Albera, rescue coordinator on the Ocean Viking, told Arab News: “From the survivors, we have heard gruesome tales of the inhumane treatment they had to endure in Libya.

“The last three days at sea have been extremely hard for those people, as the weather has worsened rapidly. Several babies and small children were on board; they have particularly suffered from seasickness.”

She pointed out that more than 1,200 people had died last year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“We are relieved that the 373 people on board our ship managed to reach a safe port, but the international community must do more to save people in the Mediterranean. Too many lives depend on this.

“EU member states must find a sustainable solution and set up a rapid disembarkation mechanism, supporting European coastal states such as Italy and Malta and working to respect international maritime law on our common coasts to the south,” Albera said.

Prior to the Ocean Viking being given permission to dock in Augusta, a heavily pregnant woman was taken from the ship to the Italian island of Lampedusa by an Italian coastguard vessel.

Italy has repeatedly impounded charity vessels for safety violations, a policy that charities claim is often a tactic to keep them from performing rescues.

The Ocean Viking is currently the only charity ship operating off Libya’s coast, although Libyan coastguard ships are also patrolling, assisted by the EU, and have intercepted 300 migrants and returned them to Libya this month.