Great minds think alike? NZ PM Ardern postpones election over coronavirus spike, sparks comparisons with Trump

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has announced that she’s delaying the general election by a month citing a surge in coronavirus cases. The move has attracted attention in the US where Donald Trump floated a similar idea earlier.

Ardern has announced the postponement of the election, from September 19 to October 17 on Monday after the country’s biggest city, Auckland, was forced into lockdown due to a growing number of coronavirus cases. 

New Zealand’s Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield reported  that nine newly-confirmed coronavirus cases were detected in the Auckland cluster, which currently has 58 active cases.

A total of 86 people, both Covid-19 positive and those who have had contacts with coronavirus suspects, have been placed into quarantine wards in the city with a population of about 1,5 million people.

In addition to the cases blamed on the community transmission, there are also 20 active cases brought from overseas.

New Zealand has long been hailed by mainstream  media as an example of how the pandemic is to be handled, having celebrated 100 days without a single case of community transmission on August, 9. The success has been credited to strict coronavirus measures Ardern imposed shortly after the disease began trickling into the island country in late February.

Announcing her decision to postpone the election, Ardern said it would borrow all parties necessary time “ to campaign and the Election Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead.”

The move immediately sparked comparisons between Ardern and US President Donald Trump, who appeared to be flirting with the idea, suggesting in a tweet last month that the US presidential elections could be delayed so “people can property, security and safely vote.”

In the US case, however, it is not the head of the state, but Congress, which has a final say if an election date should be changed. And unlike New Zealand, where opposition parties welcomed the postponement, both Republicans and Democrats have been up in arms over a possible delay.

Still, online pundits have quickly drawn parallels between the situation in two countries, arguing that people should hold Ardern to the same standard as Trump, when he was labelled “dictator” and “fascist” for toying with the idea. 

#ZeroCovid going well then. Didn’t Trump get attacked for suggesting something similar?”  UK-based journalist Christopher Snowdon tweeted.

Some have half-jokingly suggested that Ardern could have drawn inspiration for her move from Trump himself. 

Others even suggested that Trump might use New Zealand as a “precedent” (despite the difference in the countries’ political systems) to push for the delay.

“These are unprecedented times. I’m not suggesting it’s constitutional for him to do it, but wouldn’t put it past him trying,” Matt Thompson, senior producer at Australian 7NEWS wrote.

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