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Why is Jacinda Ardern cruising to reelection in New Zealand?

In recent months, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has emerged as a global sensation, gracing the covers of Vogue and TIME and giving rise to a series of tweets about how great it would be to relocate to New Zealand.

And she's not just popular abroad. As New Zealanders head to the polls this week, her ruling Labour party has a double-digit lead. Ardern, the country's youngest living head of state, is all but assured to win a second term.

But it hasn't all been smooth sailing for Ardern in recent years. A closer look shows a society facing a number of serious challenges. So what accounts for Ardern's surging popularity? Why is she cruising to reelection?

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What We're Watching: Putin eyes Belarus, NZ shooter gets life, Mali coup continues

Will Putin, or won't he? In his first public remarks on the unrest in Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he's ready to send a special police squad into the country to restore order if "extremist elements" cause things to spin "out of control." As protests against Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko's bogus re-election continue, Putin's remarks are the clearest indication yet that the Kremlin is mulling a direct intervention. But are we really headed for a Ukraine 2014 redux? It's complicated. Putin can't stand Lukashenko, and would love to see him gone, but he also wants to prevent the Belarusian opposition from succeeding in a way that might inspire Russians. What's more, intervening directly in Belarus would probably be a harder sell at home than he had to make in 2014: for Russia, Belarus' cultural, economic, and strategic importance all pale next to Ukraine's. But Putin also has a reflexive fear of instability: if the situation deteriorates significantly next door — and his pledge of support could well encourage Lukashenko to push things too far — Putin could roll the dice and send in the troops.

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Virtual DNC builds enthusiasm but Dems should not get complacent

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Number one, the DNC is underway, the Democratic National Convention, how do you think the first night went?

Well, it's weird, right? Because it's virtual. But the fact that it's virtual means that everybody gets to practice their speeches and get the cinematic quality right, before it actually goes out. So, I mean, you know, when you've got a whole bunch of money and you've got Hollywood sensibilities advising you, you can make it look really good. And that's what they did. So, I mean, I do think it was entertaining, it was engaging. I think from a more meaningful, substantive perspective, it is pretty clear that you have a broader tent that is focused on getting Trump out of office.

Now, I mean the other side of that is that Biden is not driving the train, right? I mean, there's not an immense amount of enthusiasm about the actual candidate. And Kamala Harris certainly helps, but ultimately, Biden is the presidential candidate. And, you know, he's not going to inspire the way that Obama did, or Michelle Obama did last night. But certainly, I don't think you're going to have Bernie Sanders delegates, you know, opposing Biden the way many did during 2016 when I was at the both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions then. It was quite something to see, just the dissonance inside what was not one happy tent. Here, you've got a lot of people that are very motivated because everyone's angry with Trump. And I think with Kasich as well, who I, you know, I know pretty well. And I mean, you know, is an older guy from Ohio and it's an important swing state, but ultimately, I don't think Kasich is the person that swings more people to vote for Trump. It's just that there are also, in addition to the Bernie Sanders people being really anti Trump, there are a number of disenfranchised Republicans that are opposed to Trump, too. So, I think all of that, you know, certainly hurts.

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What We're Watching: Turkey targets Iraqi Kurds, virus back in NZ, Irish government deal

Iraqi Kurds, beware of "Claw Eagle:" Turkish special forces have crossed into northern Iraq as part of a new offensive — dubbed "Operation Claw Eagle" by Ankara — to fight Kurdish militants there. The latest move follows Turkish airstrikes against Kurdistan People's Party forces earlier this week in response to attacks by Kurdish militants on army bases and police stations in southern Turkey. The Turkish military has battled rebel Kurds in northern Iraq for decades, but this time signs of Iranian air support suggest close cooperation between Ankara and Tehran, which is also keen to keep a lid on the ambitions of ethnic Kurds inside Iran.

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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Jordan's COVID-19 response, New Zealand's long weekend plans, Philippines' illegal hospital

Jordan's COVID-19 successes – and failures: Jordan, which imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, has fared relatively well compared to neighboring countries. To date, the country of over 10 million has recorded just nine deaths, a per capita death rate of just 0.88 per million people, compared with 32 per million in Israel and 9 in Saudi Arabia. The Jordanian government's Epidemic Committee, which is overseeing the pandemic response, has been widely praised for listening to medical professionals and delivering clear and consistent messaging to Jordanians on how to curb the disease's spread. But while the low caseload and death rate have paved the way for some businesses to reopen already, the economic impact has been severe, and critics say Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz's government hasn't done enough to help jobless Jordanians and small business owners weather the economic downturn. The Kingdom, already mired in economic crisis before the outbreak, says it just doesn't have cash on hand to offer unemployment benefits. As Jordan slowly moves from the public health phase of the crisis to the economic one, the government's challenges are only beginning. The month of Ramadan is usually the busiest shopping season, and a boon for small business owners who account for some 75 percent of Jordan's total GDP. But this year, sales in the money-making apparel sector dropped 70 percent compared to the same period last year. Jordan's economy is expected to contract around 3 percent this year because of the pandemic.

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