New Zealand - Agnostic Woman the Incoming Prime Minister

Jacinda Arden

New Zealand –The National Party won 56 seats which was more than any other party, but failed to capture the 61 seats needed for a parliamentary majority to govern in New Zealand’s political system. The Labour Party, headed by Jacinda Ardern, won 46 and they had a total of 54 seats with their allies in the Green Party. The 9-member NZ First Party was expected over past few weeks to decide with which party to form a coalition. They finally announced that they will work with the Labour Party and that means that a 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern, the leader of the Labour Party, is now on the verge of becoming New Zealand’s next Prime Minister, the third woman ever in the role.

Ms. Ardern took control of the Labour Party in July after its leader, Andrew Little, quit amid dismal poll numbers. Under her leadership, the Labour Party polled ahead of its traditional rival, the National Party, for the first time in twelve years. Ardern is a supporter of same-sex marriage, having voted in favor of the marriage equality bill in 2013, and she also supports the liberalization of abortion law.

An interesting thing about the young politician is that she left the Mormon faith in her twenties due to its anti-gay bigotry and no longer belongs to any organized religion. "Even before the Civil Union Bill came up, I lived in a flat with three gay friends and I was still going to church every so often and I just remember thinking 'this is really inconsistent -- I'm either doing a disservice to the church or my friends'. Because how could I subscribe to a religion that just didn't account for them,” Ms. Ardern wondered.

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"I can't see myself being a member of an organized religion again," Arden said. She is agnostic but she also thinks that people should be free to have their personal beliefs and not be persecuted for it, whether they be atheist or staunch church members.

Jacinda Ardern grew up in Murupara and Morrinsville, the product of both church and state -- her family were Mormon; her father spent 40 years in the police force. After taking control over the Labour Party, Arden enjoyed a wave of attention for her charisma, for her youth, and for condemning a television commentator’s question about whether employers have a right to know whether a woman plans to become a parent. She refused to be pinned down on whether she has considered having children, saying no male politician would be forced to answer that question.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

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