Three weeks ago, New Zealand’s conservative National Party appeared to be cruising to a fourth straight election victory. Opinion polls showed the party had strong support and the opposition was struggling to inspire people ahead of September’s general election. But much has changed since then due to the rise of opposition leader Jacinda Ardern, and the latest polls indicate the election will be closely contested. The latest shift came Monday, when United Future leader Peter Dunne resigned, the third party leader to quit in as many weeks. His small party supported the government and his move came as a blow to Prime Minister Bill English and his National Party. Dunne said there’s a mood for change in the district where he has served as a lawmaker for 33 years, something that’s become apparent to him only in recent weeks.
“In New Zealand all of us, me included, took the view that after Brexit, after Trump, this wouldn’t happen here,” Dunne said. “But actually, it’s the same mood.”
Although Dunne was United Future’s only lawmaker, his party was one of several minor parties that helped the government reach a ruling majority.
English is campaigning on his party’s economic success, pointing to solid GDP growth, strong employment numbers and budget surpluses. His party had turned his somewhat dull image into a positive, portraying him as steady and dependable.