New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced on Tuesday that she will delay the country’s legislative elections for four weeks after a coronavirus outbreak, CNN reports.
New Zealand had been one of the success stories in tackling the coronavirus, recording 100 days without community spread until this month.
Last week, the country re-imposed a lockdown in Auckland and issues restrictions for other areas after several people with no history of international travel tested positive for the coronavirus, suggesting they were infected by someone in the community that has not yet been traced.
The lockdown was extended through August 26 after additional cases were confirmed.
Ardern said the parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for September 19, would be delayed until October 17, noting that the “reemergence of Covid in Auckland at the beginning of the formal campaign period has been cause for concern."
"Ultimately I want to ensure we have a well-run election that gives all voters the best chance to receive all the information about parties and candidates and delivers certainty for the future," she said.
Arden, who has sole authority to move the election, said she consulted with other party leaders as "moving an election date especially this late in an electoral cycle is a significant decision."
"In the end what matters most is what is in the best interests of voters and our democracy," she said. "Any decision to review the election date must be as free from partisan political interests as possible."
Opposition candidates support:
Ardern’s decision was hailed by opposition party leaders.
"It was always National's view that to have a fair, democratic election, we needed to deal with this second wave of Covid-19 so politicians from all parties had a reasonable chance to present their policies, and the public felt comfortable engaging with the campaign without putting their health at risk,” Judith Collins, the head of the National Party, said in a statement.
"Holding an election during a Covid outbreak has the risk of serious interference in our democracy,” agreed New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters. “Voters would be expected to exercise their electoral rights with a dearth of information and that is unacceptable.”