Monday, 22 September 2014

A few thoughts on the NZ Election

I'm going to try and write this objectively, even though I'm openly leftist and saddened by this weekend's NZ election result. These are just my thoughts and they're not scientific or anything.

For outsiders: National, the right-wing government, has won a 3rd election running and increased its share of votes and MPs. It's not only surprising to increase support after 2 terms, but they now have enough MPs to govern without making a coalition with other parties - rare for NZ's proportional MMP system.

Labour and the Green Party are the main losers, who failed to capitalise on National's failings and actually lost MPs.

Internet-Mana, the socialist-progressive party, lost its only MP the firebrand Hone Harawira, after Labour - its closest ally - defeated him with the support of the right-wing parties. Baffling.

Many of my friends are shocked, depressed, stunned, angry and physically upset. We have seen the destruction of the environment and the brutal victimisation of the poor, and it looks like this will continue.

But the shock is not valid. Myself and my friends - mainly left, green, progressive, and Wellington-centric - have clearly wrapped ourselves in a cocoon, now easier than ever in social media. None of us had any idea what was actually going on across NZ as a whole.

We assumed National's evils and failings were obvious, and assumed that after 2 terms there would be a weakening of the government - at the very least.

The dirty politics scandal and Kim Dotcom's "moment of truth" had the potential to change or even destroy the government. Certainly for us on the left, and those who care about politics in general, they both proved National's corrupt and immoral approach to governing.

But its clear the majority of New Zealanders DID see both of these as a distraction - if not a "circus" and a "hijack" of the election.

While this is ironic to me in some ways - National did not seem to actually campaign on any policies to be distracted from - all these events did was exaggerate the difference between the left and the mainstream.

People are also talking about non-voters, with approx 1 million eligible Kiwis not voting.

Engagement is obviously an issue for the whole country, but it is the left who are complaining the most, because most non-voters are young and young voters mostly vote left.

A government report on non-voters in the 2008 and 2011 elections puts the 18-24yr non-voting rate at 39% and 42% respectively - vastly higher than rates for older people. It is unlikely to be lower for 2014.

It seems clear to me the primary issue - in a complicated and bizarre election - is Labour's inability to convince and invigorate young people.

Labour are the primary opposition party - without them hitting 45 MPs, there simply is no left government.

The Green Party would love to become the primary opposition party but anyone would be deluded for thinking this major change is likely or even possible within the next 15 years.

I have written before about how the Labo(u)r parties are performing abysmally in UK, NZ and Aus all together. The mainstream left in all 3 countries is a shambles and the socialist left is fragmented, ineffectual and tiny.

Something is wrong when young, leftist, cosmopolitan Wellington Central votes for Grant Robertson (Labour) as its MP but votes for National as the governing party.

Again, it is up to the Labour Party to get their shit together and provide a confident, dynamic and convincing option as the next government. Because it is not enough to just wait for the National government to simply fall over, and at times it has felt like Labour's campaign strategy was exactly that.

Anyway I just wanted to write all this down, even just for my benefit.

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