Which political party is Jacinda Ardern

How Jacinda Ardern is changing New Zealand's political culture

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won an overwhelming election and changed the New Zealand parliament.

The day after she was re-elected, the New Zealand Prime Minister met a few fellow activists and friends in a café near her home. "I'm enjoying this day," she said frankly, with a liberated smile when reporters spotted her.

This is how Jacinda Ardern celebrated her overwhelming election success. Ardern's Labor Party had won an absolute majority in New Zealand's parliament, which changed radically with the election. Almost half of the parliamentarians are now women, 12 percent are gays and lesbians, 16 Maoris, and two parliamentarians with a migration background from Africa and Asia are new. The majority of the newly elected members are also younger than ever. Political scientist Bronwyn Hayward of Canterbury University smiles and says: "The traditional supremacy of privileged older white men in New Zealand's parliament is gone, the new parliament reflects New Zealand society much better than before."

In 2017, Ardern's political career got off to an unpromising start. Just two months before the elections, the Labor Party elected the then 37-year-old as its top candidate, more out of desperation than out of conviction, after miserable poll results. Her conservative opponents and many commentators ridiculed the young candidate, who placed "kindness" - friendliness, consideration and compassion - at the center of her politics. But for many young people, especially young women, Jacinda Ardern became a symbol of hope.

Their votes helped Ardern Labor Party get 36.9 percent of the vote in 2017 - too little to rule. But after weeks of negotiations with the populist NZ First party, Jacinda Ardern was able to form a coalition government that was tolerated by the Greens. With patience, tolerance, respectful debates and compromises, she managed to hold the coalition together for three years. "Ardern wants to change the way people talk about politics and democracy," says political scientist Richard Shaw of Massey University in Auckland. "She said in an interview that she would like New Zealand schoolchildren to dream of becoming politicians."

Ardern grew up in a religious household

Ardern's origins shaped her style of government, which was based on conviction and cooperation. Ardern, who grew up as the daughter of Mormons and came from a small family, was already committed to tolerance and human interaction at school. At seventeen she said goodbye to her parents' faith, became a Social Democrat, studied communications and began her political work in Tony Blair's UK office and with her mentor, Helen Clark, New Zealand's first female Labor Prime Minister. At the age of 28, she moved into the New Zealand parliament as the Labor Party's backbencher. Until her surprising rise to the top candidate of her party, she was little known.

As a young prime minister, she made the first international headlines. At a reception for Queen Elizabeth in Great Britain, Jacinda Ardern appeared in a traditional feathered cloak of the indigenous Maori. Her round belly could be seen under the dress: Ardern was pregnant. She was proud of her partner. After giving birth, she took six weeks of maternity leave while she was represented by Secretary of State Winston Peters of the NZ First Party. Ardern's partner, Clarke Gayford, host of a popular television show, has been looking after their daughter, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, since their resumption of office. On Ardern's first trip to the United Nations in New York, he brought the nursing mother's baby into the conference room. Gayford has his famous wife's back covered, as most politicians' wives do. This surprised the generally conservative New Zealanders less than abroad: After all, New Zealand was the first country to introduce women's suffrage as early as 1893.

Three major crises in three years

The first major test for Ardern was when a right-wing extremist terrorist killed 51 people in and around two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. Jacinda Ardern hurried into town - accompanied by representatives from all the parties she had invited. The picture of the young prime minister, who, covered with a headscarf, embraced survivors and relatives of the Muslim victims, went around the world. The Prime Minister encouraged her compatriots to show compassion for the victims and united them in grief and united action against the hatred. In this crisis, Ardern not only showed empathy, but also determination and assertiveness. Under her leadership, New Zealand tightened its gun laws. She managed to convince her parliamentary colleagues and especially her coalition partner, the NZ First party, which represented a particularly large number of hunters and gun owners, in long discussions. When 21 people died a few months later in a volcanic eruption on a small island, Ardern was actively involved in the rescue operation for 26 survivors and provided millions for the economic consequences of the natural disaster.

Then the corona pandemic broke out. In a short time, the Prime Minister succeeded in convincing the vast majority of New Zealanders to work towards the goal of eliminating the coronavirus in their own country. Together with her medical advisors, she convinced “our team of 5 million” to embark on a two-month strict lockdown across the country and close all international borders. The harder you go against the virus, the faster you can return to a kind of normal life, so their argument. Seriously, but objectively and thoroughly, Ardern prepared her compatriots for the difficult time of the lockdown and its economic consequences. She made billions available for the unemployed New Zealanders and at the same time cut her and her ministers' salaries by twenty percent for six months. It did not conceal from them that there were still many uncertainties in the fight against the virus, but at the same time it set firm goals for an end to the situation. Almost every day, Ardern not only approached the population officially at press conferences with her medical advisors, but also via Facebook to keep people engaged.

Without script and make-up, as one is used to from conversations with friends and family, Ardern encouraged her compatriots and patiently answered questions in the comments - often from the couch in the living room or at the dining table, in a tracksuit or in jeans . Every now and then her partner played in the background with the little daughter, who once interrupted her mother and made her and her audience laugh. Again and again, Ardern admonished her compatriots to regularly take care of older or single neighbors. With "kindness", human affection and understanding, the New Zealanders were able to survive the hard lockdown and reward themselves afterwards with an almost normal everyday life. Another shorter lockdown after a local outbreak two months later was also accepted by most New Zealanders. The hard work was rewarded: New Zealand with its 5 million inhabitants has only recorded 1887 corona infections and 25 deaths to date.

Jacinda Ardern's recipe for success

With her crisis management, Jacinda Ardern has proven to be an open, honest, efficient and, above all, authentic leader, says Andrei Alexander Lux, an expert on leadership qualities in organizations at Edith Cowan University in Australia. “Authentic leaders in politics and business know their own strengths and weaknesses,” writes Lux in the academic journal “The Conversation”. “They act on the basis of deeply anchored values, with a moral compass and try to understand how their actions affect other people . " They are ready to take responsibility for their mistakes as well. Real authenticity helps a leader like Ardern to unite people in a common cause. That is Jacinda Ardern's recipe for success. She is the absolute opposite of the American President Donald Trump.