Judith Collins, the woman taking on juggernaut Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand’s election

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Intl desk, Oct 16: The woman taking on Jacinda Ardern is a tough-on-crime veteran politician who admires former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and won the nickname “Crusher” due to her bold policy on illegal street racing.

Jacinda Adern, New Zealand’s prime minister, smiles after casting her ballot at a polling station in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Ardern??has voted two weeks before election day as part of a strategy to encourage people to cast their ballots in advance. Photographer: Brendon O’Hagan/Bloomberg

When New Zealanders head to the polls on Saturday they will decide whether to elect 61-year-old Judith Collins, leader of the center-right National Party — or give progressive 40-year-old Ardern a second term as Prime Minister.

Polls suggest that Ardern’s center-left Labour Party and its likely coalition partner, the left-wing Green Party, should cruise to victory. But the real question is whether Labour will need a coalition partner, or if it will become the first party to win a majority of votes since the current political system was introduced in 1996.

“There’s an expectation that it’s Labour’s election to lose,” said Claire Timperley, a New Zealand politics lecturer at Victoria University in Wellington.

It’s fair to say that Collins has taken on a challenge.

She’s the third leader of her party this year, taking the job three months before the election (her predecessor only lasted 53 days). More importantly, she’s up against Ardern, one of New Zealand’s most popular Prime Ministers — ever.

New National Party leader Judith Collins with her husband David Wong-Tung, right, and her tennis coach and sign builder, David Knott, on July 18, 2020, in Auckland, New Zealand.

New National Party leader Judith Collins with her husband David Wong-Tung, right, and her tennis coach and sign builder, David Knott, on July 18, 2020, in Auckland, New Zealand.

Ardern’s approval ratings soared during the coronavirus pandemic after her government took early measures to contain the outbreak, including announcing a nationwide lockdown when there were only 102 confirmed cases. New Zealand has reported 25 coronavirus deaths.

<> on March 15, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Cyclone Lusi has already left 3 dead and 6 missing in Vanuatu with the toll of missing people expected to rise as communication lines are reestablished on the island. Residents of Auckland’s coastal communities were issued with a warning on Friday as Cyclone Lusi was predicted to move through the region over the weekend.

Covid-19 has loomed large this election, with an outbreak in August delaying polling by a month.

A record number of people have cast their vote early, with experts saying that the high level of early voting was likely due to Covid-19 fears. As of Wednesday, more than 1.6 million people, or 46% of enrolled voters, had already voted at polling booths around the country, including Collins and Ardern.

And Covid-19 featured heavily in election debates. Ardern has pitched her party as a strong, stable government that can keep people safe. Collins argues that her pro-business party is better placed to handle the pandemic’s economic fallout.

Source: News Agencies

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