New Zealand PM Ardern postpones general election to October 17

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday postponed the general election by four weeks to Oct. 17 but ruled out delaying it any further, as the country tackles a new outbreak of the coronavirus.

“Ultimately, the 17th of October … provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under,” Ardern said in a news conference.

The election had been scheduled to be held on Sept. 19.

Pressure had been mounting on Ardern to postpone the vote amid the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in its biggest city Auckland, after the country had been free of coronavirus cases for 102 days.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called on Sunday for a delay to the election.

The main opposition National Party also wanted a delay, after they were forced to cancel campaign events due to restrictions on movement and crowds due to the pandemic. It has accused Ardern of using the crisis to shore up support.

Ardern said she had advised the Governor-General of the new election date, and added she did not intend to change it again.

“We are all in the same boat. We are all campaigning in the same environment,” Ardern said.

New Zealand law requires the election to be held before Nov. 21.

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