At 39, she was the youngest female prime minister of New Zealand since 1850, according to the official government biography, and soon proved to be one of the most influential women in the country’s political history. She became the first woman to lead a major national party and won the support of small nationalist parties to form a center-left coalition government. It was her second term as prime minister and the third woman to become a New York Times bestseller, but she is only the second New England woman to be the only woman to be elected to the United States.
In March 2017, she was unanimously elected deputy leader of the Labor Party and won the general election to become the first female leader in the history of the New Zealand Labour Party. She took over as party leader on July 1, 2016, becoming the first female leader and youngest-ever leader. In 2017, she was unanimously elected deputy leader of New Zealand Labour, and in 2018 she won a general election – becoming prime minister for the second time in her career.
In another dramatic twist, Ardern learned in the months that she would become prime minister in front of the television when New Zealand Green Party leader Winston Peters said he would support a coalition government she led. She used the situation to form a government with the Labor Party and the Greens. Greens co-leader Andrew Little, whose party governed in coalition with Labor during its first term, said it now had a mandate to implement change.
But Islamophobic comments she made during her time as a member of New Zealand’s Labour Party suggest Ardern is not the anti-racism leader the world is looking for.
If an election were held today, Labour would govern with Ardern as prime minister and the Greens and New Zealand First as opposition parties. Recent polls have put her at the top of the list of New Zealanders who want her to return to the prime minister, along with those who want her to replace her, in a New York Times and ABC News poll. The political challenge for the Prime Minister is to ensure she can keep her position as party leader, not that of the Greens or NZ First. She dominates the polls, meaning the race for the premiership is essentially a contest between her and former Labour Party leader Winston Peters.
In March last year, she beamed with pride as she wore a headscarf and hugged mourners following the Christchurch massacre. Ardern is confident of what can be achieved on the world stage and she is a leader in New Zealand’s political system.
Opposition Leader Judith Collins conceded defeat, congratulating Ardern on a superb result for the Labor Party but warning that New Zealand was now in recession and warning against the perception that she would concede defeat. She claimed victory and thanked all New Zealanders for their support for her and the Labour Party during the election campaign. She won hearts across the country in a high-profile response to the tragic events in Christchurch, which killed at least 51 people. The NewNZers are proud of their Prime Minister and expect her to put things right with a minimum of fuss.
After working for the New Zealand Labour Party since the 1999 general election, Jacinda swapped her job as an assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Auckland for a post – a doctoral fellowship at University College London. The 28-year-old entered Parliament in 2008 as a Labour MP after a brief stint in Britain. In 2009, she returned to New York City as part of a research project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, before returning to New Zealand.
Last July, Andrew Little, the Labour leader who has repeatedly been described as a “good bloke in grey,” realised that there was a chance for Labour to snatch a majority from the right – the nationalist nationalists in September’s election. Labour was on the verge of winning an absolute majority in parliament, something that has not happened since proportional representation was introduced in New Zealand 24 years ago.
In 2017, the ruling National Party won the most seats but found itself forced to abandon the treasury when New Zealand’s small First Party entered into a formal coalition with Labour. Ardern’s image and popularity were so strong that a Labour advert said a vote for the party would “allow New Zealand to retain Jacinda as one of the top ten reasons to vote for her.” After the 2017 national election, Peters’ Labor Party and NZ First formed a coalition government.
Now in 2020, The mandate implies Ardern, 40, could form the first single-party government in decades, and face the challenge of delivering on the progressive transformation she promised but failed to deliver in her first term, where Labour shared power with a nationalist party.
“Thank you to the many people who gave us their vote, who trusted us to continue leading New Zealand’s recovery,” she told cheering supporters, adding that her centre-left Labour Party had seen its highest level of support in at least 50 years.