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New Zealand’s prime minister postpones general elections

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at a press conference to speak to media about changing the 2020 general elections date, at the parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, on August 17, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has postponed the country’s general elections by a month under pressure from the opposition, which said the current coronavirus lockdown in the largest city of Auckland would work to their disadvantage.

Ardern announced on Monday that the election date would be pushed back from the original September 19 to October 17.

“This decision gives all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Electoral Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead,” Ardern said.

The center-left leader insisted that all parties were in the same boat and she had “absolutely no intention” of further delaying the vote.

The opposition conservative National Party had argued that holding the elections on the original September 19 date would have given Ardern an unfair advantage as Auckland remained under lockdown. Nearly a third of New Zealand’s five million people are under coronavirus restrictions in the city.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who had called for a delay, said “common sense has prevailed.”

New Zealand had managed to go without a new coronavirus case for 102 days, but a flare-up of infections occurred in Auckland last week. Ardern extended the lockdown for the city’s 1.7 million residents until August 26, while social distancing rules are in place in other towns and cities.

New Zealand has now had a total of 1,280 cases and 22 deaths.

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