Jacinda Ardern: determination, courage and empathy
On October 17 Jacinda Ardern won New Zealand elections: the Labour party gained 49,1% of votes with a hit never seen in 50 years. Her victory speech seems particularly iconic:
We’re living in a polarized world. I hope that this election has shown that we aren’t like that. We are too small to lose sight of other people's perspective.
With these words Ardern emphasizes how important it is to work for the whole community welfare, beyond political differences. The 49,1% of New Zealanders have chosen to believe in the future of Labour, highly probably because of the ability in having faced the first virus spread during march 2020.
Already on the 23rd of March, Jacinda Ardern took hard measures in order to reduce the risk of infection. First of all, she immediately closed national borders and declared a strong lockdown for the entire population, but for a short time. These decisions led to positive results that could be seen as early as May. In August there was a second short and small virus spread, but it has been quickly overcome. According to October statistics, overall in New Zealand out of 5 million inhabitants were recorded 1912 cases and 25 of deaths.The Labour party reacted quickly and promptly: several health regulations and tests were arranged, so experts could constantly monitor the epidemic.
Covid-19 cases which
registered deaths (October statistics)
The Covid-19 management and the Ardern leadership are internationally considered positive models to follow. In fact, New Zealander Labour created a political project widely appreciated by citizens, without discrediting and despising political opponents. Also before the pandemic, Jacinda Ardern gave importance to the fight against the economic, sexual, cultural, racial and gender inequalities. Other prerogatives were (and are today too) combating poverty, especially child poverty which is particularly high in the maori community, fighting unemployment that ranges between 7% and 9% and consequently professionalizing workers' training.
Last but not least, the environmental issue is another topic extremely dear to Jacinda Ardern: she believes that the importance of climate change is comparable to the fight against nuclear power that her generation won some decades ago, when New Zealand abandoned the Anzus treaty signed in 1951 with Australia and USA. Today, the main aim is to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with a five-years supervision system.
However, with regard to the rising of unemployment it’s highly important to revitalize the tourism sector that has suffered from the closure of borders.
Overall, the victory obtained on October 17 will be a hard proof in the future for the Labour party because it will face challenges that are far from simple.
The renewed parliament is one of the most inclusive ever: it involves people from different cultural, social, ethnic and sexual backgrounds. For examples, according to CNN, the new minister of Foreign Affairs is Nanaia Mahuta, who comes from the Maori community. Her facial maori tattoo gives confidence and visibility to her indigenous community, which often feels forgotten by international political dynamics. Moreover, The Guardian underlines that in New Zealand the populist parties seem almost entirely gone. In fact, although in New Zealand there are some populist parties like in many countries of the world, these elections prove that just a few citizens want to support this political positions.
In the matter of the relationship between political opponents, Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand are defined by Laura Walters on The Newsroom as an “example of civilization” because not only the winner Ardern but also all other politicians seem to have been respectful of each other despite their political contrasts.
Of course, it’s natural to compare this political attitude to Trump and Biden’s debates. What emerges is the fact that, like Jacinda Ardern says “it’s not necessary to dirty the opponents”. So, the New Zealander leader suggests an important reminder for all over the world.
In 2017, at just 37 years old Jacinda Ardern became the leader of the Labour party and shortly after a mother, ruling a country which appears in transition from social and economic points of view. She doesn’t want to be defined as a “superwoman”, like many media tend to represent her: her empathy, determination and courage to fight discriminations and inequalities led her to take care of New Zealanders from the beginning.
According to the expert of leadership Suze Wilson, Jacinda Ardern showed her great political and communication skills also during her speech given on the 23rd of March, when she explained all lockdown-measures. In that hard situation, she gave meaning to citizens’ actions, encouraging the sense of individual and collective responsibility, which is highly remarkable in any community, according to the expert Keith Grint.
Clearness, transparency and pragmatism are further aspects of her political and communicative attitude. On October 17, New Zealanders have also voted for the referendum on the legalization of Euthanasia and almost the 66% of voters chose yes. This is one of the many tough decisions that the new leader have to deal with: in fact, on November 7 2020 the New Zealand will be the seventh country in the world that officially makes legal the Euthanasia. In the light of these political and social approaches, it seems that Jacinda Ardern is opening a new chapter of progressive politics.