Sydney (Australia), Oct 16 (EFE) .- The COVID-19 pandemic, which has not had much health but economic impact, and inequality are some of the key issues in Saturday’s elections in New Zealand, where In addition, laws are voted to legalize recreational marijuana and euthanasia.
According to polls, the Labor Party is a favorite under the leadership of the charismatic Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who has gained international recognition for her management following the supremacist attacks on two mosques in 2019 and the pandemic.
The National Party, headed by the conservative Judith Collins, is the second in voting intention, followed by other more minority parties such as the Green Party, ACT New Zealand and New Zealand First.
These are some of the key issues in these elections:
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
New Zealand had to delay these elections for a month due to the pandemic, although it has been one of the countries that has responded best to COVID-19, which has caused some 1,516 confirmed infections (39 active) and 25 deaths.
Although a new outbreak forced restrictions in Auckland in August, there are currently no cases of local transmission in the country. For voting, the authorities have conditioned the polling stations to preserve physical distance and hand hygiene.
Although the health aspect is under control, New Zealand entered a recession in the second quarter due to the pandemic after 11 years of economic growth and most parties propose measures to incentivize employment and reactivate the economy.
THE ARDERN PHENOMENON
Ardern, 40, consolidated his international image during his reaction to the terrorist attack on two mosques by a white supremacist in the town of Christchurch in March 2019, in which 51 people were shot dead.
His empathy and veiled image to visit the victims, as well as his forcefulness against violence and supremacist discourse, triggered his popularity inside and outside his country.
Last December, he had to face another crisis due to the eruption of the Whakaari volcano on a tourist island in the northeast of the country in which 20 people died.
Of a temperate nature, Ardern showed that she can also be decisive with her early and efficient reaction when the first cases of COVID-19 emerged, allowing her to control the epidemic.
Collins, his main rival, is known for his more combative tone and for his more conservative positions on economic and social issues.
INEQUALITY AND CLIMATE CRISIS
Although New Zealand is a prosperous country with a GDP per capita close to 44,000 dollars (37,000 euros), inequality has grown in recent years with problems such as difficult access to housing and pockets of poverty, mainly among Maori and ethnic minorities. Peaceful.
Ardern has acknowledged that his government has failed to meet expectations about housing in his tenure and has pledged to accelerate the creation of residential areas to alleviate the housing shortage. Among other measures, Labor also plans to raise the top tax rate to 39 percent, up from 33 percent today.
The National Party has proposed aid to improve education and health among less well-off families, while proposing a temporary tax cut. For their part, the Greens want to create a capital tax to reduce inequality.
Most of the parties contemplate initiatives against the climate crisis.
POSSIBLE COALITION GOVERNMENT
Currently, Ardern governs in coalition with the Greens and New Zealand First, a nationalist party that wants to reduce immigration and is ideologically far removed from Labor.
According to the voting intention polls, the Labor Party will win the elections, but will need the support of the Green Party to govern. A coalition without New Zealand First would mean a more progressive government.
Since the authorities introduced the mixed system of candidates and closed lists in 1996, no party has achieved an absolute majority in Parliament.
REFERENCES ON EUTHANASIA AND MARIJUANA
New Zealanders will also decide in a binding referendum on the entry into force of the law on assisted death or euthanasia. A 2017 survey of 16,000 people showed 66 percent support, mostly among young people.
Opponents of the law argue that it does not have sufficient guarantees to show that the patient is not being pressured to receive euthanasia, which the proponents of the measure deny.
The legalization of recreational marijuana will also be submitted to the popular will in another plebiscite. The law on the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis will allow the purchase of up to 14 grams of this drug and have up to four plants at home.
Ardern has declined to comment on his vote in both referendums, while Collins has revealed his vote against both proposals.
(c) EFE Agency