Valentina Zarya here, filling in for Claire this week.
Last week, women in New Zealand cheered as deputy Labour leader Jacinda Ardern stepped into the top leadership role after the resignation of Andrew Little. The outspoken 37-year-old generated a surge of excitement for the party, which had “languished in polls behind Prime Minister Bill English’s National Party,” according to Bloomberg. The local media even dubbed her rise in popularity “Jacinda-mania.”
Yet the win from of a week ago is now being tainted by a loss: Metiria Turei, the Green Party’s co-leader, resigned on Wednesday. The politician said she was leaving the party because her family was suffering “unbearable” scrutiny. Life under the microscope began after her admission last month that she had lied to the government about her living situation while on welfare as a single mother in the 1990s.
Turei’s co-leader, James Shaw, will now lead the Greens into the election next month. The party has traditionally used a co-leadership model—with one male and one female leader—but it will not elect another woman until its 2018 party conference.
The news is bigger than just losing a small party politician. In New Zealand’s parliamentary system, smaller parties typically build coalitions with one of the two largest parties so they can pass legislation, so Ardern’s Labour party will most likely have to rely on the Green Party to form a left-leaning coalition government to prevent Prime Minister Bill English’s National Party from maintaining control. Had Turei not stepped down, we could have seen a coalition led by two women.
Not all is lost, of course. The silver lining is that Ardern seems to have a real chance at becoming PM. She would be the third woman in New Zealand’s history to bear the title.
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