Jacinda Ardern just sealed her victory and a second term as New Zealand’s Prime Minister. Well-wishers are terming it a win for socialism but above all, the election shows just how crucial the handling of COVID-19 is for political verdicts. Certainly, there are enough leaves in New Zealand’s book for leaders in America to peruse through and adopt for their own good — and for the people’s as well. When votes are cast, little attention goes to overarching sentiments of nationalism or tropes of grand old conservatism – lives are at stake and the people would only be concerned about how their health gets ‘juggled’ amidst the political jostle.
Ardern approached the pandemic with a calm that many saw in a viral video of her earthquake-cameoed interview. There wasn’t any undue panic when she addressed the people, yet this was balanced with an acknowledgement of how grave the virus is and how far an adversity it could turn into. While Jacinda Ardern has been popular among voters for many reasons —one being last year’s quick call to ban weapons that can be used for mass-killing— the key driver for this year’s extraordinary support was rather simple and massive: the pandemic. Her administration won over not one, but two waves of the viral spread. Hence, the party charted the best path to breaking all stereotypes that one had about the mixed-member proportional electoral system. 49% of the votes went to Ardern and the Labour Party while a mere 27% went to the main opposition. It is the first time that such a victory has been recorded since the new voting system came into being back in the 1990s. Even better was the turnout of the youth, raising the overall number of early voters to 1.9 million.
New Zealand’s attitude towards the pandemic was aggressive — under normal circumstances, the word would seem too severe and invasive, but for the uncertainty of the disease, it appeared (and later proved) to be only right to be strict and not leave any facet unchecked. For the numerous protests, both backed and at other times opposed by politicians, that broke out on the other side of the world in America, there was something so draconian about regulations – even that which asked for mandatory wearing of masks. These rules are arbitrary interventions into one’s freedom, so they declared. But, testing times require measures never imagined before. Nobody had even the slightest idea of how the world would look mid-way into 2020. The lockdowns, social distancing, wearing of masks and face shields – such a vision did not even brush past our peripheral sight. Yet, here we are, doing whatever is possible to keep the curve down and flat. New Zealand knew that it had to be rapid and aggressive. This was nowhere close to the meddlesome authoritarianism that some attribute to regulations. It was what the situation necessitated – and so the administration began to work in accordance with it. The country meticulously unrolled measures such as movement restrictions, physical distancing and the 6-feet rule, hygiene practices, and intensive case and contact detection coupled with management. While New Zealand has entered its worst recession, there is hope that the administration’s efforts will ensure a fast-paced recovery. The country’s model speaks out clear that the earlier you act, the faster you can get back to ‘normal’. New Zealand’s on far better grounds than even its neighbour, Australia.
There’s only one thing that matters to the public now, as testified by the landslide victory secured by Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand’s election: the administration’s steps to ensure the safety of lives. The pandemic asked for three key traits: leadership, sensible spontaneity, and the ability to reach out to the people. All three were delivered by the Labour Party in NZ. Robustness of leadership and prevention of bureaucratic delays helped the country seal all loopholes when it began acting with war-time precision. Even with all expertise in the community and access to essentials, no country can reach past the tide if there’s an indecisive and irresponsible voice heading governance. Ardern’s government set forth a cautious and scientific reaction while some others chose to go for unwarranted chivalry and fearlessness. If these others do not still humble down and take some notes from NZ’s COVID-time success story, if they do not learn the pulse of their nations, then they’ve failed hard as political leaders and public servants. And the most vital maxim that comes out of this Ardern-uous journey is that governance isn’t a ‘profit-making enterprise’.