Election could be delayed due to virus

The dissolution of New Zealand's Parliament has been delayed, election campaigning has been postponed and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is reconsidering the September 19 poll date as she grapples with the return of Covid-19 in the community.

On Tuesday night, health officials announced four positive tests in one South Auckland family, prompting the return of short-term lockdown measures in NZ's biggest city and gathering restrictions across the country.

It also led Ms Ardern to defer the dissolution of Parliament, set for Wednesday morning, until Monday.

"We're giving ourselves as much flexibility as possible to deal with what we learn over the next 72 hours," she said, as health authorities race to discover more about the country's first cases of community transmission in 102 days.

"We've therefore decided it would be prudent to defer the dissolution of parliament by at least a few days to preserve all options for, if needed, reconvening parliament or... the date of the general election."

While September 19 has long been slated as polling day, an election could be held as late as November 21 without constitutional drama.

An election could be held as late as November 21 without constitutional drama. Photo: Getty Images
An election could be held as late as November 21 without constitutional drama. Photo: Getty Images
The Electoral Commission has previously signalled it could hold the poll under alert level two conditions; the current situation in New Zealand, outside Auckland's heightened alert level three.

Ms Ardern says she is also observing caretaker conventions to keep the opposition informed of its decisions, placing phone calls to National leader Judith Collins on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The return of Covid-19 also changes the political landscape.

The five parties represented in Parliament have cancelled immediate campaigning plans as they await news on the health situation.

According to public polls, Ms Ardern was firmly on track to win a second term as Prime Minister.

Kiwis applauded Ms Ardern's lockdown back in April, sending Labour soaring in popularity.

It remains to be seen how Kiwis will see a second lockdown - they may see Ms Ardern's government as responsible for new cases, or reminded of her impressive leadership during the initial crisis.

Ms Collins urged New Zealanders to follow health advice while foreshadowing an attack on the Government's handling of the border regime.

"New Zealanders can be assured that National will be seeking an explanation and clear answers about the situation we now find ourselves in."

Former National Party leader Simon Bridges, who was pushed from the leadership in May after Ms Ardern's popularity spike, cried foul.

"Let's be honest about how problematic a 19 September election in under 40 days is," he tweeted.

"I've just cancelled public meetings and a lot of volunteers door-knocking. Meanwhile, Labour, while suspending campaigning, continues with all machinery of Govt and thus the power of the airwaves."

 

 

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