'Ardern's silence swayed poll': How the world reacted to NZ referendums

Author
Ben Leahy, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 31 Oct 2020, 9:20AM
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

'Ardern's silence swayed poll': How the world reacted to NZ referendums

Author
Ben Leahy, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 31 Oct 2020, 9:20AM

New Zealand's referendum votes have made headlines across the globe with one report calling the missed chance to legalise cannabis a "what if" moment, while a Catholic outlet condemned the support for euthanasia.

Kiwis have voted yes on euthanasia and no to cannabis legalisation, preliminary numbers showed.

With an estimated 17 per cent of votes still to be counted, 65.2 per cent voted in support of the End of Life Choice Act, while 53.1 per cent voted against the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

The results were splashed across major media outlets the world over, including the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Time and Financial Times.

Yet despite 53 per cent of Kiwis voting against legalising cannabis, one media report by the Australian Associated Press called the vote a "what if" moment.

It pointed to how Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern voted yes in support of legalising cannabis but didn't reveal her support until after the first results from the vote were released.

The outlet implied Ardern's star power could have helped shift the vote in favour of the yes camp, with the headline: "Ardern silence on cannabis sways NZ poll".

"Given the Labour leader's historic popularity - evidenced in her landslide re-election - drug-law reform advocates were bereft to learn a would-be supporter sat the debate out," AAP reported.

NZ Drug Foundation board member and AUT academic Khylee Quince told the outlet she was not angry at the prime minister, "just so disappointed".

"(Her public support) would have been quite significant.

"People see her as thoughtful and empathetic, the leader of the nation and she pushes buttons of particular demographics," she said.

Greens MP Chloe Swarbrick also took a swipe at the PM, telling AAP she was in the Greens because she had "courage" to make her convictions public.

Ardern herself has said she kept her vote private so Labour politicians and the public could vote in the referendum without her influence.

Also in Australia, the Catholic Weekly warned Kiwis would now be in danger due to the nation's vote in support of legalising euthanasia.

"Legal experts and pro-life advocates warn that vulnerable sick, elderly and people with disabilities will be at risk when proposed assisted suicide legislation comes into force in New Zealand next year," it said.

It quoted Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP as saying the elderly and vulnerable deserved better, and a pro-life advocate as calling it "a very dark day" in New Zealand's history.

Financial reporting site The Motley Fool noted the hit to the stock market caused by New Zealand's vote against legalising cannabis in an article headlined: "NZ referendum induces investor paranoia".

"We can probably put today's negative moves in the cannabis sector down to the newly released results from the referendum," the outlet reported.

It said the referendum result would have a flow on effect on the Australian stock market, saying a legalised New Zealand cannabis market would have been a boon to companies planning to sell legalised cannabis.

"Not only would it have resulted in a potentially massive market just across the Tasman for cannabis products, but it would have also likely increased the pressure for Australian states to follow suit over the next few years," the report said.

"That prospect now looks a lot dimmer in light of this result."

Most media outlets, however, reported New Zealand's two referendum votes with little opinion or commentary.

Many noted New Zealand had now voted to join a handful of countries in the world who have legalised euthanasia.

"New Zealand will join a small number of countries that have legalised euthanasia after its citizens voted overwhelmingly in favour of it in a referendum this month," the New York Times said.