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Home / World / New Zealand's prime minister is unmarried, pregnant and goes into maternity leave

New Zealand's prime minister is unmarried, pregnant and goes into maternity leave



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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A green island nation at the end of the world – one of America's closest allies – could teach the US something about the role of women in the United States public life.

Women in New Zealand could vote for two decades ahead of American women, the country is on its third female prime minister ̵

1; and now the current incumbent, an unmarried 37-year-old named Jacinda Ardern, is about

See Cynthia McFadden About Nightly News with Lester Holt for More on Jacinda Ardern

In June, Ardern, the youngest female leader in the world, will be the second woman in history to be born, while an elected head of state. She becomes the first elected executive to ever take maternity leave.

"I never want to give the impression that I am a kind of miracle woman," said Ardern, an unpretentious prodigy with a perpetual willingness to smile. "Or that women are expected to do everything because it's me, I'm not doing everything."

She will get help from the baby's father, Clarke Gayford, her four-year-old partner. Gayford, host of a popular fisherman show called Fish of the Day, plans to remain a fatherhouse.

The couple's unmarried status, she said, was not an "intentional decision."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who will be seen here at a festival in Auckland in March, will be the first elected leader to take maternity leave. Hannah Peters / Getty Images

"It sounds terrible because we are very dedicated [Marriage is] just not what we really coped with."

"We may not have sequenced properly," she laughed.

"A Girly Swot"

Ardern describes himself as a nerdy overachiever – an "absolute girly swot" in Kiwi speaks – from an early age. She was the daughter of a policeman and a school lunch woman from a farming town on the North Island. She plunged into left-wing activism and joined the Labor Party at the age of only 17.

"My whole reason for politics was because I had this strong duty to look after other people," Ardern said.

She cast her first vote for Helen Clark, who became the country's second female prime minister in 1999. In 2008, Ardern became the head of the International Union of Socialist Youth, as well as the youngest member of the New Zealand Parliament.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sits with her partner Clarke Gayford. NBC News

Because of the women who arrived before her, Ardern said, she never had the feeling that she could not achieve her goals

"The mood in New Zealand," she said, "should be people you should have a chance to prove yourself. "

Jacindamania

Another lesson New Zealand could be able to teach the US about public life, how to contradict, without demonizing.

Ardern only became leader of the Labor Party seven weeks before the election in September 2017. With an appealing political nature, Labor began a rapid rise from the depths of the elections, but on election day no party won the majority.

To form a coalition government, Ardern teamed up with the very conservative New Zealand First Party. In American terms, it would be like Bernie Sanders allies with Ted Cruz.

Ardern agreed to give New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters the post of Deputy Prime Minister. He will lead the country during Arderns maternity leave.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, right, with NBC's Cynthia McFadden NBC News

New Zealand has a picture as a South Pacific paradise, with breathtaking mountains and beaches and unique wildlife, but it has political problems facing the Americans such as homelessness and rising house prices. Like the US, New Zealand has political divisions – deep – and more than half of voters chose a party other than Labor last autumn.

But unlike the US, the country is not polarized. Even many of the people who have not voted for Ardern now seem to root for them, won by their humor and openness.

Jacdamania's "wedding choice" is an additional benefit for the Prime Minister, who enjoys the reactions of the little girls she meets. "If you see a woman in such a job and it has an effect," she said, "that's wonderful."

Ardern's PM priorities include combating child poverty and climate change, and she criticized the recent US, French and British strike against Syria

As a candidate, she raised some issues similar to those of the US presidential campaign in 2016, though with a completely different tone. It has reduced immigration and suggested making it harder for foreign foreigners to buy local real estate. Foreign investment helped keep average home prices in the country's largest city, Auckland, up to one million NZ out of reach of many kiwis.

But she said she was "angry" when the Wall Street Journal likened her immigration policy to Donald Trump is in a tweet. She does not build a wall, she said.

"We are committed to doubling our refugee rate," Ardern said. "We are a nation built on immigration, and the proposal to do something about that value has made me very angry."

On Thursday, the charm of Ardern will be exhibited in London, where she will act, among other things. She will meet Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace

The Queen is officially New Zealand's head of state. Headlines during Ardern's campaign suggested she wanted "Ditch the Queen". She said that she believed that New Zealand would become a republic during her lifetime, meaning that the connection to the crown would be broken.

When asked how this could happen in the palace, Ardern laughed

"[The queen’s] These were always things for New Zealand," she said.

She said she will not push the issue forward, at least not now. Leading the country, having a baby, and fighting the queen could be too much even for her.


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