Leadership of New Zealand Opposition National Party to Be Contested

(Bloomberg) -- The leadership of New Zealand’s main opposition party will be contested less than four months out from a general election.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that he and deputy Paula Bennett are facing a challenge from two colleagues who he refused to name. Local media reported the challenger for the leadership is Todd Muller, National’s spokesman for agriculture and biosecurity, and that a caucus vote will be held on Friday.

The challenge comes after a poll showed support for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour Party has surged amid the coronavirus pandemic while backing for National has slumped. Labour had 56.5% support to National’s 30.6%, the Reid Research/Newshub poll showed Monday. The election will be held Sept. 19.

Ardern has won plaudits for her leadership during the crisis after her government adopted an elimination strategy, closing the borders and imposing a strict lockdown that appears to have succeeded in halting the spread of the virus.

Bridges told Radio New Zealand he was confident he had the support of the majority of his caucus.

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