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SYDNEY, Australia — New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is popular around the world, generating gushing reviews and inspiring a progressive fan base. She has been praised for managing the pandemic, the Christchurch terrorist attack and the birth of her first child.
Now, Ms. Ardern’s star turn looks likely to translate into votes at home.
She is expected to return to power in this week’s general election, with polls giving her Labour Party a comfortable double-digit lead over the more conservative National Party. An especially strong showing might even give Labour the country’s first majority government since an electoral overhaul in the mid-1990s that empowered minor parties and favored coalitions.
But New Zealand’s proportional voting system could also lead to some surprises, and Ms. Ardern has been vague about her plans for a potential second term.
Here’s how the campaign has played out, and what to watch for as the results come in on Saturday.
What issues are shaping the race?
Support for Ms. Ardern has been surging for months, mainly because of her successful management of the coronavirus pandemic.
She led a comprehensive campaign for elimination of the virus centered on a “go hard, go early” approach, with borders locked down beginning in March, expanded testing and contact tracing, and a four-level alert system that made clear what was expected of everyone.
Her daily briefings with Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health, became appointment viewing in part because Ms. Ardern deployed comfort and solidarity while letting science shape policy.
She also connected directly with her constituents, often <a class="css-1g7m0tk" href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/23/world/asia/jacinda-ardern-coronavirus-new-zealand.html"
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