How did Jacinda Ardern Win the New Zealand Elections?

Having won the general elections in New Zealand for the second time, Jacinda Ardern earned the trust of her people with her tenacity in the fight against the coronavirus and her clear stance and unwavering determination in the face of the Christchurch massacre, and came into power for another three years. Having taken over the leadership of the struggling NZ Labour Party less than two months before the general election, Ardern came out victorious and became prime minister at age 37. This time around, a more difficult second period awaits her – mired with economic downturn and the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Before embarking on a career in politics, Jacinda Ardern, the daughter of a humble family, worked as a researcher in the office of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, then as senior policy advisor in Tony Blair’s government in England, as well as actively engaging in volunteerism through non-governmental organizations working for the youth, children, and refugees.
During her previous election campaign, Ardern had shut down a question posed by an Australian journalist who asked her how it was to be pregnant while running an election campaign, saying it was highly sexist of him to ask such a question at her workplace, and it was with this stance that she created a fan base not only in her home country but also across the world. Ardern, an indomitable defender of women’s, children’s and refugees’ rights, has created a serious alternative to self-focused world leaders with her self-confident, transparent, inclusive and sharing demeanour. This has given her an attitude that raises not only her but also those around her and the masses, creating a sense of “we”, not “me”.

Photo: Hagen Hopkins

In March 2019, when a white supremacist committed twin mosque massacres in the city of Christchurch, which resulted in the deaths of 51 people and injured 49 others, Ardern was appreciated for her sensitive yet determined stance; on the one hand, she was strongly condemning what had happened, sincerely embracing the Muslim community who was deeply hurt by this attack and conveying messages of unity to New Zealanders, while on the other hand, she was working on immediately passing legislation to ban automatic weapons. But beyond this, we saw the portrait of a leader who sees and understands the social, environmental, economic and cultural problems of the society she lives in, a leader who can mobilize society by understanding the concerns about these problems and create a common vision, and one that is successful in managing emotions.
In today’s world, Jacinda Ardern has created a leadership style that rejoices in differences by creating a union between increasingly complex dispositions and differences and establishing connections between them in a rapidly changing pattern of events. It proves that managing differences is one of the most important strategies for a leader and makes policies sustainable. She is showing that it is possible to make use of differences while solving problems, rather than avoiding conflicts arising from differences.
Ardern, who came into power in the previous general election with a long list of promises, has been criticized by the opposition for failing to fulfil every promise in that very manifesto. However, she has created a success story with a rather aggressive policy to eradicate coronavirus from New Zealand by ordering the whole country into total quarantine and closing all borders. In a country with a population of over 5 million, only 1,500 COVID-19 cases have been recorded and 25 deaths. But now, perhaps the most difficult part of her entire political life awaits Ardern: Managing the health and economic crisis waiting to be resolved after the pandemic is over will be the most challenging part of this task. Tourism and education revenues, which are important for the economy of New Zealand, came to a standstill during the pandemic, the economy shrank by 12% and unemployment rose to new highs.
The post-coronavirus new world order seems to be the harbinger of a new world leadership as well. The rules of a new generation of sustainable leadership are also being written and tested in practice. And women leaders are leading the way. As we witness our evolution towards a new world order, it seems that the definition of leadership will vastly have changed from our traditional understanding of it by the end of this pandemic.

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