Tasks and challenges confronting the new Prime Minister

Jacinda Ardern has the ability and opportunity to prove her mettle

Chandramohan Balaji

New Delhi, October 23, 2017

As Jacinda Ardern assumes charge as New Zealand’s 17th Prime Minister shortly, she will face some tough challenges both in terms of policy and politics.

Her experience as a member of Parliament and Leader of the Opposition (although for less than two months) could work to her advantage.

She has spelt out her plan of action during the first 100 days in office.

Political pundits will agree that Ms Ardern has travelled a long way from the back benches to the post of Prime Minister, proving herself as an adept lawmaker especially when her Party was in crisis.

Her articulation on complex political ideas with positive outlook will keep her as a good Prime Minister. As the youngest Prime Minister in two centuries, at 37, she is a fresh face with many new ideas.

Immigration Issue

The first challenge that she would face is immigration. As a politician, Ms Ardern must have observed the benefits of immigration that have accrued to the New Zealand economy. It would be interesting to see how she would achieve her cuts on migrant numbers.

Security Issue

The Labour-led coalition government will also be tested on security.

In geopolitical perspective, as a country in the Pacific region with a strong focus on export of agricultural, dairy and meat products, Wellington is expected to be more actively involved in the South-West Pacific, South Pacific and South-East Pacific.

The second most compelling challenge that the incoming Prime Minister would face is to find a capable Defence Minister with experience in national security.

At present, the Labour Party is weak on this aspect.

Priyanca for Defence

Unlike Helen Clark had the luxury of having talented leaders such as Phil Goff, David Cunliffe and Martin Gallagher, the current scenario is yet to Labour Party seems to be having a weak bench strength.

New talents such as Priyanca Radhakrishnan will prove their mettle in the government if given an opportunity to be the Defence Minister.

The Labour Party coalition government will be tested on the key aspects which were left out in the Defence White Paper 2016 such as New Zealand’s strategic outlook.

The White Papers

The new government will be tested on the South China Sea issue, as White Paper said that New Zealand would not take sides on Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East Asia.

As an extension, the Defence White Paper reaffirmed the Wellington Declaration 2010 and 2012 with the support of the Labour Party.

The above aspects may require clear cut articulation from the Labour Party government especially for its strategic partners and alliances such as India, Australia, Indonesia and the United States.

Relations with India

Specifically, from India’s point of view it will look out as to how the new government will go about on the Free Trade Agreement and its complications.

In that way, it’s expected that Jacinda Ardern as the youngest New Zealand Prime Minister will join the pantheon of the great Labour Party leaders such as Peter Fraser, Walt Nash and Helen Clark who served as Prime Ministers of New Zealand.

Chandramohan Balaji is our Correspondent based in New Delhi.

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Photo Caption:

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Youngest PM in more than 100 years.

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