Sydney, Australia, Jan 28 (EFE).- The popularity of New Zealand’s prime minister fell to its lowest levels since she came to power in 2017 amid an outbreak of the highly contagious omicron variant and pessimism about the country’s economic future.
The approval of Jacinda Ardern, praised worldwide for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and response to the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks, fell by four percentage points to 35 percent, according to public broadcaster TVNZ’s 1News Kantar poll released late Thursday.
The results of the first poll of the year, which contrast with the 63 percent approval that Ardern had at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and shortly before her overwhelming re-election in 2020, still do not represent a setback for the leader’s Labor Party ahead of the 2023 elections.
The poll indicates that support for the Labor Party, which governs in coalition with the Green Party despite having a parliamentary majority, is at 40 percent, one percentage point less than the previous survey, while the main opposition National Party has gained four percentage points to 32 percent.
The Ardern administration, which implemented a strict Covid policy with swift lockdowns with only a few coronavirus cases and the closure of its international borders, has been criticized for being too slow and not acting firmly in preparing for new coronavirus variants.
On Friday, New Zealand reported 105 community infections, taking the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 15,991, including 52 deaths and 1,320 active cases.
However, official projections released the day before point to New Zealand recording some 8,000 infections and 400 deaths in three months, which will affect the economy due to the impact of the illness on the workforce.
New Zealand’s population of some 5 million is also beginning to feel the virus’ impact on the country’s economy, which registered an inflation of 5.9 percent in 2021, the worst in three decades, due to the high price of housing and public services, as well as transportation.
According to the 1News Kantar poll, 49 percent of respondents – the worst figure since the 2008 financial crisis – believe that the New Zealand economy will get worse in the next 12 months.
Also expected is an increase in interest rates that will result in more expensive mortgages. EFE