On an Oct. 1 campaign visit to Nelson, a small city at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was mobbed by supporters as she walked through the streets. Cries of “We love you, Jacinda!” were common as she moved through the maskless throng, mostly women and children clamoring for selfies. The prime minister declined to shake hands, but she happily bumped elbows.
Ardern’s greatest strength as a politician is her authenticity and ability to relate to others. It has served her well during her first term, when the nation has faced some of its darkest moments—a terrorist attack by a white supremacist that left 51 dead, a volcanic eruption that killed 21, and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic. National elections are being held on Oct. 17, and polls predict a resounding victory for Ardern’s left-leaning Labour Party, despite a slumping economy and Ardern’s failure to deliver on key pledges such as fixing a housing crisis and lifting children out of poverty. There’s even a chance Labour could win an outright majority, which no party in New Zealand has done since the 1990s.