Jacinda Ardern: A living icon of democracy and humanity
Jacinda Ardern will serve a second term as New Zealand Prime Minister following the Labour Party's landslide victory in an election held on October 17, 2020. This victory means a major shift towards progressive parties. With most of the votes counted, her Labour Party has won almost 50 per cent of the vote compared to 27 per cent for the opposition National party--a result that could allow the party to form the first majority government in the Pacific nation since 1996. With all votes tallied, Ms Ardern's centre-left Labour Party won 49.1%, bringing a projected 64 seats and a rare outright parliamentary majority.
She made history as the youngest prime minister of the world. After the Christchurch killings on March 15, 2019 in New Zealand, Ms Jacinda arranged to open the parliament session through reciting the holy Quran verse and vowed never to utter the name of the twin-mosque gunman as she opened a sombre session of parliament with an evocative "as-salaam alaikum-peace be upon him" message of peace to Muslims.
She told the lawmakers assembly accusing the Australian killer that he sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety. She called him a terrorist, a criminal and an extremist. Jacinda also praised the bravery of mosque worshippers, saying the nation stood with its grieving Muslim community in this "darkest of days". She also arranged all radio stations and television channels to broadcast the holy Quran and Ajaan for the sympathy of Muslims community. She also called upon the world leaders to fight against white-minded cast extremist.
Strong leadership skills are particularly important at a time of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, Ms Ardern has proven herself to be one of the most capable leaders as she announced New Zealand has won the battle against COVID-19 while many other countries, with bigger and better resources, could not properly face the situation. As on May 5, 2020, her country, New Zealand, has reported zero confirmed cases and 26 recoveries of COVID-19.
She has taken a 20 percent wage cut, a gesture of solidarity with those who have lost their jobs or been forced to accept a reduced salary as a result of the turmoil caused by the lockdown. She has given them a glimpse of a different kind of leadership and the country has also recently eased movement restrictions from level four to level three.
However, Jacinda showed how a leader should respond to crises. She first showed her firmness when she showed sincere compassion in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019 and took swift action to ban mass killing weapons within days of the brutal terrorist attack. Similarly, when a volcano eruption devastated White Island on December 2019, killing 27, she was seen hugging first responders and gave a compassionate speech that also addressed the country on the situation, resources and plans. Again, the praises came in for her the world over.
Referring to New Zealand's nuclear-free policy, she described taking action on climate change as "my generation's nuclear-free moment". She also voiced for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She has condemned the killing of Palestinians by the Israelis during protests at the Gaza border.
Last year, she made headlines for passing landmark legislation with regards to climate change in a bit to make New Zealand mostly carbon-neutral. The Zero Carbon Bill set a "net-zero target for almost all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and creates an independent Climate Change Commission to steer government policy". Additionally, her liberal government has made a promise to plant at least one billion trees over the next decade and that the electricity grid will run entirely on renewable energy by 2035.
Ardern has described herself as a social democrat, a progressive, a republican and a feminist, citing Helen Clark as a political hero, and has described capitalism as a "blatant failure" due to the extent of child poverty and homelessness in New Zealand. She advocates a lower rate of immigration, suggesting a drop of around 20,000- 30,000. Calling it an "infrastructure issue", she argues, "there hasn't been enough planning about population growth, we haven't necessarily targeted our skill shortages properly". However, she wants to increase the intake of refugees.
Ms Ardern was one of fifteen women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, by guest editor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Forbes magazine placed her at 38 among the 100 most powerful women in the world in 2019. She was included in the 2019 Time 100 list and shortlisted for Time's 2019 Person of the Year. The magazine later incorrectly speculated that she might win the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize among a listed six candidates, for her handling of the Christchurch mosque shootings but somehow escaped the prize. In 2020, she was listed by Prospect as the second-greatest thinker for the COVID-19 era.
However, while becoming a first-time mum at 37, she also led New Zealand through three tumultuous years in which it endured its worst-ever terror attack, a deadly volcano eruption and a global pandemic that has tested leaders around the globe.
She has won plaudits on the international stage, and admiration from many at home. Things have not always been plain sailing--some accuse her of not fulfilling key election promises, like reducing child poverty, others scoff at the "woke" policies that she backs on social and racial justice. But, she went into 2020 general election with an approval rating of 55%, which translated into a landslide victory.
"This has been a really tough time for New Zealand - we've had a terrorist attack, a natural disaster and a global pandemic," she acknowledged earlier in the year. But in these tough times we've seen the best of us. We've been able to clear high hurdles and face huge challenges because of who we are, and because we had a plan."
She became the icon of the world media when she put proper initiatives for the victims of the Muslims of Christchurch in New Zealand. She provided extraordinary all-out supports to the COVID-19 hit people in hospital and also earned the worldwide media attention and recognition for her outstanding performance. She proved herself as a real friend of these distraught people in New Zealand and has become an icon for her strong leadership.
The writer is a banker and