Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed the New Zealand election by four weeks amid a second wave of coronavirus infections, moving it from September 19 to October 17.
Announcing the decision on Monday, Ardern said the new date would give parties the opportunity to plan their campaigns under varying conditions, including coronavirus restrictions, as well as being preferable for voter turnout.
She also insisted that she had no plans to push the date back further as a result of the pandemic, however, describing COVID-19 as the "world's new normal".
"COVID will be with us for some time to come. Continuously pushing out an election does not lessen the risk of disruption and this is why the Electoral Commission has planned for the possibility of holding an election where the country is at level 2, and with some parts at level 3,” she said.
"I have absolutely no intention at all to change from this point … I want to ensure we have a well run election that gives all voters the best chance to receive all the information they need about parties and candidates and delivers certainty for the future."
New Zealand recorded nine new coronavirus cases in the community over the past 24 hours, six days after Ardern enforced swift lockdowns in response to a fresh outbreak.
Four new cases were identified among a single family in Auckland last Tuesday, ending New Zealand’s 102-day run of no community transmission. In response, Ardern moved the city to stage three restrictions and the rest of the country to stage two.
The nine new cases overnight brings New Zealand’s active cases to 78.
"We have had 102 days [without a new case] and it was easy to feel New Zealand was out of the woods," said Ardern at an emergency press conference on Tuesday. "No country has gone as far as we did without having a resurgence. And because we were the only ones, we had to plan. And we have planned."
The outbreak of a second wave is a significant blow for New Zealand, a country that was lauded as a global success story for effectively eliminating the virus in June after a hardline seven-week lockdown.
Ardern’s announcement to delay the election followed the results of a Herald-Kanter poll that indicated 60 percent of New Zealanders did not think the election should still be held on September 19.
When asked what would happen if New Zealand went back into alert stage four, Ardern said: "I'm not anticipating that at this stage. There is no evidence that that is where we would be."
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