The decision of whether the general election in New Zealand will be held on September 19 will be made by the country's prime minister Jacinda Arden on Monday. However, analysts expect that Arden will resist the call for a delay of the vote by the opposition due to the sudden flare-up of COVID-19 in the island nation.
New Zealand has managed to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control and has fared better than most countries. However, the country of five million has seen a series of new infections, which forced Ardern to shut down the country's largest city, Auckland, earlier this week.
Opposition Calls for Delay
Seven new cases were reported on Saturday. Having kept New Zealand clear of infections for 102 days straight before the flare-up, Ardern has won praise for her decisive response to the pandemic, and opinion polls have shown her Labour Party in a winning position.
Pollsters have been unable to survey voters since the latest outbreak, but analysts expected Ardern to decide to go ahead with the election next month. The opposition National Party would like it delayed, they said, in the hope that Ardern loses some of her lusters once hardships caused by the lockdown begin to bite.
"She is a savvy politician," said Grant Duncan, professor of politics at Massey University. "It pays for the government to have an election sooner rather than later, while the opposition wants it delayed."
Shoring Up Support During the Pandemic
Forced to cancel campaign events due to restrictions on movement and crowds due to the health scare, the opposition has accused Ardern of using the pandemic to shore up support as she appears on television nearly every day to reassure New Zealanders, while their own leaders struggle to draw audiences.
Parliament is due to be dissolved on Monday, and Ardern told reporters on Friday that she would have decided by then, while giving assurances that the election commission had already planned for the vote - which must be held by November 21 - to be conducted safely.
Pollster and blogger David Farrar said in a post on Kiwiblog that with Auckland still in lockdown for another 12 days, an election in September would be "madness", predicting a near-record low turnout if it went ahead.
(With inputs from agencies)