Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern is the youngest Prime Minister of New Zealand in 150 years, as well as the island nation’s third female leader.
On seven separate occasions, Ardern had been offered, but declined to accept, the position of Labour party leader. She was a list MP in 2008, and in February was elected to the Mount Albert constituency.
The Labour Party had been the opposition for three consecutive terms, and on August 1, 2017, former Labour leader Andrew Little offered Ardern the position once more, because he thought that she was truly the only one who could lead them out of that position. She delivered. After taking over as party leader from Andrew Little in August, the Labour party began polling higher than the National Party for the first time in years.
As leader of the Labour party, Ardern received an unprecedented outpouring of public support, and led her party to gain an additional 14 seats in government. In that September 2017 election, Ardern’s Labour Party won just 46 seats, while the National Party captured 56. However, because of a coalition between Labour and New Zealand First, Jacinda Arden was elected Prime Minister, and her party’s coalition secured control.
So, who is this incredible 37 year old transforming New Zealand with “Jacindamania”?
Ardern attended the University of Waikato and received a Bachelor of Communication Studies. Shortly after she worked for the second female Prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair.
If being the leader of a major political party wasn’t enough, Jacinda also DJs on the side. Her cat has opposable thumbs, a rescue adoption that has frequented her instagram. If Ardern was to get a tattoo, it would be of her childhood hero – Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Ardern topped her all boys Metalwork class in grade school, and makes a particularly great “not dirty and a little sweet” martini.
As for policy, the Guardian reported she “pledged to deliver a better life for New Zealanders by ending child poverty, making rivers swimmable again, building affordable homes and preparing young people for an unpredictable future through free tertiary education and a bigger student allowance.”
The New Zealand Herald has called her government a “women drought”, as only one third of her ministers are female. The Prime Minister has some discretion in cabinet ministers but they are ultimately appointed by the whole caucus. Ardern stated in the past that a 50/50 Cabinet, like Canada has, is a goal for her government. She owns a “feminist” shirt and feels, as a female prime minister, she can and will champion gender equality in her role.
Ardern will be joined in New Zealand’s government by 56 members of the National Party, 45 from Labour, 9 from New Zealand First, 8 from Green, and 1 from the ACT party. The National Party has lost 5 seats and Labour gained 14 in the election. Winster Peters, from New Zealand First, will be Ardern’s deputy Prime Minister.
The leader of New Zealand’s National Party, Bill English, said her popularity was mere “stardust” and would passed. The star qualities that brought about Ardern’s rise seem to be taking off rather than slowing down. In addition to her election win, Ardern has drawn immense popularity and been compared to Obama, Corbyn, Sanders, and Trudeau. In response to these claims, Ardern was quoted by the Guardian saying “I am certainly going to try to keep positive momentum for the progressive movements from around the world, but I can only be myself. I am never going to replicate any other leader. They’ve done amazing things in and of their own right, but I’m Jacinda Ardern.”