Sadly, I cannot vote in next week’s New Zealand National Election. In the last election (2014), I worked on the day, helping people vote. It was an awesome time, and I enjoyed seeing how the New Zealand Election system works.
This year, I am not working the election, but I have been more involved in learning about the issues that affect the country. I feel I have a stake in this election and so, while I can’t vote, I wanted to talk about how I would vote if I had the chance.
For those who are not familiar with the New Zealand Election process, the country uses a Mixed Member Proportionate system. What does that mean? Well, what it means is that Parliament seats are decided by a mix of Districts and Party Representation. Let’s break it down.
- The NZ Parliament is a single chamber of 120* seats.
- 64 Seats are Determined by physical Electorates that divide the country.
- 7 additional physical Seats are considered “Maori” Electorates. These seats are in place to ensure Maori representation in Parliament.
- The remaining seats, 49* seats are determined by the overall Percentage of a Party’s vote.
* – Sometimes due to rounding, there can be an extra, or overhang, seat. This is to maintain the proper proportional representation of the parties.
This means that when you go into the Voting booth, you get two votes. One for your Electorate, and one for the Party you prefer. If the party gets 5% of the party vote, they get at least one seat in Parliament, regardless of whether they win a seat in an electorate.
The Maori population in the country have a choice of voting in a Maori Designated District, or in the other Electorate they fall into. This is a fairly controversial arrangement in some circles, especially with the idea of vote value… But that is another discussion for another time.
This election system means that your voting options are much bigger, wider, and more strategic. You can vote for a candidate you like in your district but vote for another party because you want to have their views in parliament. Personally, I find it an excellent system, and right now New Zealand is in an interesting position.
Right now, there are two major parties in New Zealand: National (Center Right) and Labour (Center Left And each, on average, garner between 35-43% support. It goes up and down, but generally, they sit in the low 40’s.
From there, there are two minor parties, which consider of the Greens (Left) and New Zealand First (Which is Liberal *and* conservative? They are confusing. More on that in a moment). These parties usually have between 5-9% support. The Greens have been polling into the Teens in the last couple of years, but an (IMO bullshit) scandal knocked them down to 7% during the election run.
Then there are the Micro Parties. These parties are the Mana Party, the Maori Party (Both Left), United Future (Center) and ACT (Right) who have 1-2 seats and usually they are electorate based.
There are some parties who are trying to knock on the door to get into parliament. This election, TOP, or the Opportunities Party, is trying to crash into Parliament by trying to get that magic party 5% vote.
Right now, National has been in power for nine years. They have been in a Coalition with ACT, Maori, and United Future. They are trying for an unprecedented 4th term in government. At the beginning of the election, it seemed like National would be able to secure the 4th term. Then the Labour Leader, Andrew Little, resigned as leader two weeks into the election campaign and Jacinda Arden became the party leader and has amassed a remarkable comeback.
The latest polls put Labour ahead of National 44%-40%, so neither major party will be able to govern alone.
Because of this., everyone is looking at the Junior Partner in the potential alliance. Both Parties could potentially make a government with either New Zealand First (who is polling at 6%) or the Greens (who is polling at 7%) with the Micro parties able to carry over the line in a razor close need for numbers.
The big issues of this election for me personally have been the following (in order):
- Medical and Mental health services and the Suicide crisis in NZ
- Child Poverty
- Housing Affordability
- Infrastructure development
On most of these issues, both Labour and Green both appeals to me, even New Zealand First and I have quite a few things in common. There is one area I am very nervous about, and that is immigration. The Labour Party has a spotty history on how it approaches immigration issues. Two years ago, Labour Leader Little called out “Chinese sounding names” as an indicator that property speculation is running rampant in the country. It led to a fairly large blowback because of the insinuation about race and property ownership. Since then, I have been very cautious and unsure about Labour’s Immigration policies, and I am not convinced they won’t cave to other parties when pushed.
I feel that parts of NZ First’s Immigration policy is harmful to the country and would be terrible to enact. It would impact me immediately, locking me out of Permanent Residency for much longer, and potentially mess with my ability to own a home. Party leader Winston Peters has been quoted (on their Immigration page!) “New Zealand First’s view is simple – we welcome the people we need and not those who need us.”
I feel that statement locks empathy and compassion, heartless and has no business governing.
The Greens Immigration policy wants to raise the Refugee Quota and also prepare for Climate Refugees from the Pacific Islands. They also want to streamline the immigration process and monitor the influx of immigrants.
In reality, all three parties have things in their policies that I like, and things I do not like.
With Labour in the driver’s seat regarding numbers against National at the moment (though it has been tightening) they will likely be able to choose which party to align with: Greens or New Zealand First to form a government.
So, for me, the choice comes down to… Which side of Labour do I want in Government? Do I want a more conservative Labour with NZF where NZF can (and will) pressure for more draconian immigration measures, or do I go with a More Liberal Labour with the Greens, where the Greens may blunt Labour’s impulse to go too far on immigration?
Of course, I can look at other issues between the three parties. Labour and Greens hit a lot of good things for me, especially with Infrastructure and Programs to help Children and Mental Health. I like how NZF wants a priority on education and see it as an investment in the future of the country, a better welfare system, and putting money into our medical and mental health areas.
In reality, many of these parties agree on a lot; it is the details that they differ… That and Immigration.
So, for me… I would do a Labour/Green split ticket. My Electorate (Auckland Central) vote would go to Labour, and my Party vote would go to the Greens.
Honestly, I expect that there will be tightening in immigration. The world has largely removed the welcome mat from their doors and closed their doors. I fight against it hard, but right now people are nervous and scared, and that translates into pushing out immigrants. However, with a Labour-Green Coalition, the worst of Labour’s impulses will be stopped by the Greens, and the pragmatism of Labour will make immigration more efficient and prevent exploitation by the system. For other issues facing NZ, I feel that the Labour-Greens coalition can do a lot of good and help those Kiwis who are struggling. I have family in the public medical field, I have friends who are immigrants, who face mental health issues, who face medical waits and access issues. I want PreP funded in New Zealand by the government, and everyone is hurting under the housing issues and infrastructure needs. The solutions that Labour has put forward and the areas that the Greens prioritise is, I feel, the better path for New Zealand for now.
And finally, I think having a Liberal Government take over government would send a message to the world, that the scary Conservative political shift of the English Speaking world is beginning to falter.
If I could vote at least, that is what I would do.
Hopefully, barring NZF getting its way, I will get to vote next time. Here is to the election, and if you are a Kiwi, please vote. No matter your political lifestyle choice, voting is a vital part of democracy, when fewer people vote, more extreme candidates and governments are elected. As a result, so please vote. Even if it is for the Cannabis Party, or TOP, or National, or Green, or NZF, please vote