Sydney, Australia, Oct 4 (efe-epa).- The leader of New Zealand’s opposition National Party on Sunday prayed before casting her ballot in the country’s general election, a day after advance voting opened.
On Saturday, Labour Party leader and current prime minister Jacinda Ardern and her husband Clark Gayford were two of the first New Zealanders to vote, which is now possible until election day on Oct. 17.
Arriving with her husband, David Wong Tung, at a polling station at St Thomas Church in Tamaki, east Auckland, Judith Collins said a prayer before marking the ballot paper.
“I’ve been out voting today. It was a really easy choice, it was two ticks blue,” she told reporters afterwards.
Two ticks refers to the country’s Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system. Under MMP, in which the 120 seats in parliament are decided, each voter marks two decisions, or two ticks, on the ballot – one for their party of choice, and the other for the candidate they choose to represent them in their electorate.
Noting Collins’ increasing references to religion in recent weeks, reporters asked her if she was intentionally trying to politicize religion to appeal to right-wing voters that may have strayed to smaller conservative parties.
“If you look at my maiden speech 18 years ago, you’ll see that right then, there, I declared that I believe in God. I still do,” Collins, who has been a member of parliament since 2002, said.
She “sometimes, but not always” goes to church on Sundays, and refused to discuss what she had been praying for.
“That’s between me and God,” she said.
In a 2018 census, the number of New Zealanders identifying as having “no religion” officially surpassed the number of those identifying as Christians in the former British colony.
Collins said she had also voted in favor of the legalization of euthanasia and against the legislation of recreational cannabis – the two referendums being run as part of the election.
The 61-year-old, who has held several ministerial portfolios over the years, took over as National leader in July, steadying a party in disarray after her predecessor, little-known Todd Muller, stepped down after 53 days in the job.
A former lawyer with a reputation for being tough talking and at times combative (she was given the nickname “Crusher Collins” as police minister) is running against 39-year-old Ardern, known globally for her kindness and compassion.
While Collins is a Christian and said she has never tried cannabis, Ardern was once a Mormon who has admitted to trying it in the past. Ardern refuses to reveal how she’ll vote in a cannabis referendum, but has indicated support for the assisted dying bill.
A Reid Research poll published by Newshub last week showed Labour with 50.1 percent support, National with 29.6 percent, and the Green party with 6.3 percent.
Another by 1News Colmar Brunton put Labour at 47 percent and National at 33 percent, followed by the Greens at 7 percent.
Both polls indicate that Labour would be just short of a majority and would need the Greens to form a coalition government.
In terms of the referendums, a Reid Research poll published by Newshub earlier in the week revealed that 50.5 percent of those consulted oppose the bill on the legalization and control of recreational cannabis, while 37.9 percent are in favor, and 10.9 percent don’t know.
In the same survey, 61.6 percent said they supported the proposed euthanasia bill, while 25.5 percent said no, and 11.9 percent said they don’t know. EFE-EPA