Sydney, Australia, Mar 10 (EFE).- The New Zealand Labor Party, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has fallen below the opposition National Party for the first time after sweeping the October 2020 elections, in a political poll published Thursday.
This development comes after a major Omicron outbreak in the country and more than three-week long demonstrations against mandatory vaccinations outside parliament in Wellington.
According to the poll by the consulting firm Kantar, released by public broadcaster TVNZ, Labour fell three percentage points to stand at 37 percent while the National Party moved ahead to 39 percent after a sharp rise of seven percentage points.
Ardern, who has drawn praise both within her country and globally for her strong response during the first few months of the pandemic, remains the New Zealanders’ favorite politician with 34 percent of support while National Party leader Christopher Luxon obtained 25 percent.
The deadline for holding the next elections is not until January 2024.
These are the lowest levels since coming to power in 2017 for both the Labour Party and Ardern, who made history by sweeping the 2020 elections and securing an absolute majority for the first time since the 1996 electoral reform.
The drop in support for the ruling party and the popular president coincides with the reopening of the country’s borders after more than two years amid record infections linked to the omicron outbreak.
New Zealand recorded almost 24,000 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, when in January the infections were not exceeding two digits.
The country, which has registered some 208,000 cases and 81 deaths since the start of the pandemic, has fully vaccinated 95 percent of its target population.
The tough restrictions imposed during the pandemic, with lockdowns when only a handful of cases were detected, contrasts with the easing of restrictions since the government moved away from its “zero Covid-19” strategy at the end of last year.
However, the authorities maintain a strict vaccination policy, which has sparked protests in the country.
On Feb. 6, anti-vaccine protesters, inspired by Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” movement, began a demonstration outside parliament, which lasted 23 days and ended on Mar. 2 with police intervention.
At a press conference on Thursday, Ardern acknowledged that “this is one of the hardest moments New Zealand has been through in many years” in reference to the coronavirus infections and the country’s economic situation due to inflation and the increase in energy prices as a result of the war in Ukraine. EFE