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New Zealand's COVID election tests true power of 'Jacinda-mania'

PM aims to turn pandemic success into unprecedented majority on Saturday

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, and opposition National Party leader Judith Collins: Recent polling puts the incumbent's Labour Party well ahead. (Pool photo/Reuters)

WELLINGTON -- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rose to power on a wave of "Jacinda-mania" three years ago, and polls indicate her government's successful COVID-19 strategy will ensure her center-left Labour Party remains in control following elections on Saturday.

Ardern's appeal was dismissed as "stardust" by a rival in 2017, but in 2020 she can point to her government's achievements in eliminating the coronavirus, as well as her reputation for strong communication skills and empathy. The 40-year-old, who became a mother less than a year into her prime ministership, also won acclaim at home and abroad for her compassionate response after a lone terrorist shot dead 51 Muslim worshippers in the southern city of Christchurch in March last year.

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