Wellington, Aug 17: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced that the general elections, initially scheduled to be held on September 19, have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and will now take place on October 17.
“The Electoral Commission, via the Ministry of Justice, has advised me that a safe and accessible election is achievable on this date,” Xinhua news agency quoted Ardern as saying to the media here.
This short delay gives the commission more time to prepare including freeing up facilities for early voting during school holidays, she said.
Moving the date by four weeks also gives all parties a fair shot to campaign and delivers New Zealanders certainty without unnecessarily long delays, Ardern said.
“With the re-emergence of Covid-19 in our community these are not ordinary times and so while the decision as to the election date sits with me, I spoke with all party leaders to seek their views,” she said.
“Covid-19 will be with us for some time to come. Continuously pushing out an election does not lessen the risk of disruption,” the Prime Minster said, adding she would not change the election date again.
This decision gives all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Electoral Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead, Ardern said.
Advance voting begins on October 3, she added.
New Zealand witnessed a resurgence in the number of coronavirus cases last week after a period of 102 days.
Nine new cases were confirmed on Monday, bringing the number of active cases linked to the Auckland cluster to 58, taking the overall tally to 1,631, the BBC reported.
The death toll currently stood at 22.
Restrictions were imposed on Auckland on August 12 after a number of new infections were identified in the city.
The cluster was initially traced back to members of one family, although Ardern later said that subsequent contact-tracing had found an earlier case involving a shop worker who became sick on July 31.
There are four “alert levels” in New Zealand, and Auckland has been on Level 3 since the new measures were announced. The rest of the country is on Level 2.
Before the new cluster was identified, the government had lifted almost all of its lockdown restrictions, which were first imposed in March. (IANS)