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The woman taking on juggernaut Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand's election

October 16, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The woman running against Jacinda Ardern is a tough-on-crime veteran politician who admires former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and won the nickname "Crusher" due to her bold policy on illegal street racing.

When New Zealanders head to the polls on Saturday they will decide whether to elect 61-year-old Judith Collins, leader of the center-right National Party -- or give progressive 40-year-old Ardern a second term as Prime Minister.

"There's an expectation that it's Labour's election to lose," said Claire Timperley, a New Zealand politics lecturer at Victoria University in Wellington.

More importantly, she's up against Ardern, one of New Zealand's most popular Prime Ministers -- ever.

Collins grew up in rural New Zealand, in a tiny settlement called Walton only a short drive from Ardern's hometown, Morrinsville.

"(My parents) personified to me the New Zealand spirit and the New Zealand culture: honest, hard-working people who called a spade a spade," Collins later said.

While Ardern publicly said she didn't want to be Prime Minister until she was appointed the leader of the Labour Party only weeks before the 2017 election, Collins has made no secret of her leadership aspirations.

It looked like the National Party had a chance of being the next government, said Lara Greaves, a lecturer in New Zealand politics at the University of Auckland.

When questioning how New Zealand's second coronavirus outbreak started, she quipped to Ardern: "Where did it come from, under a rock in your garden?" She has also frequently mentioned the Pacific island of Samoa, so much so that she was accused of "weaponizing" her husband's ethnicity in a bid to appeal to New Zealand's Pasifika community.

New Zealand has already had three female Prime Ministers, including Ardern -- and for the second time in a New Zealand election, the leaders of the main two parties are both women.

In 1999, New Zealand's first female Prime Minister, National leader Jenny Shipley, went up against Labour leader Helen Clark, who would go on to be New Zealand's first elected woman Prime Minister.

And New Zealand has a history of being stronger than other countries on gender equality -- it was the first self-governing country to give women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

But Shipley said New Zealand still hadn't reached true equality -- that would be when female leaders were asked first about their politics, rather than something related to their gender.

"I think it is noteworthy that there are two women, and it does change the tenor of the conversation and the debate," she said, but cautioned that "Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins share more than they differ. "

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