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NZ opposition replaces leader to face Ardern in election

Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has proved so popular during the coronavirus pandemic that it has prompted a change of leadership in the conservative opposition party just four months from a general election.

Todd Muller on Friday deposed Simon Bridges as leader of the National Party following two disastrous opinion polls for the party that indicated Ardern was headed for a huge victory in September.

Popular: Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern.

Popular: Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern.Credit:Getty Images

Muller, 51, is not a household name in New Zealand but has support from other lawmakers and farmers. He was a manager at a kiwifruit company and a dairy company before he was first elected to Parliament in 2014. He had been acting as the opposition spokesperson for agriculture.

Before the pandemic hit, polling indicated the National Party and Ardern’s Labour Party were running neck-and-neck. But Ardern’s leadership since then has been praised, while Bridges’ criticism of some of her actions appeared to be turning away even some of National’s longtime supporters.

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