Asia Minute: New Zealand’s New Political Direction

Oct 23, 2017

Jacinda Ardern
Credit Wikimedia Commons

New Zealand will officially get a new prime minister this week—some four weeks after a national election. It took that long to sort out the coalition politics. And when the new leader takes office later this week, she will be the country’s youngest prime minister in more than 150 years. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

37 year old Jacinda Ardern will be leading a coalition government, headed by her own Labor Party—along with the Green Party, and a smaller group that put her over the top: the New Zealand First Party.

As you might surmise from its name, New Zealand First is a nationalist party – putting a priority on immigration reform. But its leader says a government put together by Labor is more likely to address poverty issues.

Previously, the center-right National Party had led the government for nearly a decade – most recently under Prime Minister Bill English.

The National Party actually won more seats than Labor and the Green Party combined in last month’s national elections, but failed to win a majority in New Zealand’s 120 seat parliament.

That opened the door for the New Zealand First party to become the deal maker with the assurance of representation in leadership positions—including the cabinet.

As for the new prime minister, after she’s sworn in on Wednesday, she says her priorities will include addressing climate change, dealing with inequality and improving women’s lives at home and in the workplace.

She also wants to hold a national referendum within the next three years about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.