February 11, 2019 / 9:33 AM / 10 days ago

Support for New Zealand PM Ardern's Labour party surges in poll

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Support for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s party surged in a widely watched poll published on Monday, with the 38-year old premier seen as the most preferred person to lead the country by far.

FILE PHOTO - New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smiles as she attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Since coming to power in 2017, Ardern’s coalition government has faced several challenges including weak business confidence, emboldened unions and a slowing economy. However, missteps and scandals by the opposition National Party in recent months have helped it pull ahead of its rivals.

In the latest Newshub Reid Research poll, support for Ardern’s center-left Labour Party rose to 47.5 percent while the opposition party fell to 41.6 percent, a record low.

The number of respondents naming Ardern as preferred prime minister also rose by 1.6 percentage points to 41.8 percent, while only 5 percent respondents chose the opposition leader, Simon Bridges.

“This is, I believe, a reflection of us doing the work,” Ardern told Newshub.

The poll was taken from January 24 to February 2, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, the polling agency said.

The numbers put the ruling coalition well ahead of all its rivals before the general election that is coming up next year.

Ardern rocketed to global celebrity as an inspiration for women after her unexpected election win and became only the second leader to give birth while in office since Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto.

While the Labour Party rose in the poll, support for its coalition partner, the nationalist New Zealand First Party, fell to 2.9 percent, which would not be enough to reach the 5 percent threshold it needs to be in parliament.

Labour was cast into government in October 2017 after striking a coalition deal with New Zealand First in the country’s German-style proportionate voting system.

The arrangement also relied on backing from the progressive Green Party, whose support was at 5.1 percent in the latest poll.

The coalition government, which brought an end to almost 10 years of National’s center right rule, came to power promising to pour money into social services and housing and strike a more protectionist stance by tightening up foreign investment rules.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Nick Macfie

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