Shortcuts / 03 October 2023

New Zealand’s election

New Zealand is heading to a general election on 14 October, in a vote that’s predicted to see a big shake-up of the Kiwi government. It’s also the first election since the former PM Jacinda Ardern stepped down. So ahead of the election, we take a look at the state of play for the major parties, some of the key election issues, and the minor parties that could form a coalition government.

So 14 October will be a busy one for political nerds…
Yep – the day of the Kiwi general election just happens to be on the same day as Australia’s referendum on the Voice to Parliament.

And the Kiwi vote is set to be a significant one?
That’s right, the polls are pointing to a change of government away from the majority Labour-held parliament and towards a National Party-led coalition. And it’s interesting because Jacinda Ardern isn’t at the helm…

What happened again?
Ardern had been PM since October 2017, so after 5 and a bit years, it was a bit of a surprise when she announced in January she’d be stepping down. Ardern led the country through the Christchurch mosque attacks and the pandemic, and when she resigned, she said she didn’t have “enough in the tank”.

And she was a popular leader?
She had a huge profile and enjoyed a landslide win in the last election. But at the time of her resignation, Ardern and Labour were facing some of their worst poll numbers of her time in office.

How are Labour’s numbers looking now?
Still not great… As Kiwis head towards the October vote, Labour’s polling is in the 26-33% support range – which is too low to win.

So what are the big issues this election?
Cost of living is the biggest one. It’s having the same kind of inflation issues that Australia and every other country is having – the cost of food is up significantly, as are power bills and housing costs. Their inflation in the 12 months to June 2023 was 6% – the same as Australia’s for the same time period.

What else?
Housing is a huge issue – cost and availability. Crime is also up, with theft and violent crime a big concern. That’s in part due to better reporting, but youth crime increased in 2022, particularly in Auckland. Two other top issues are healthcare and the environment.

How similar is the Kiwi system of government compared to Oz?
It’s quite different. In Australia, we have a 3-tiered system of government, where you have local governments, state governments, and the federal government. In New Zealand, they don’t have states, so all of those issues we spoke about are the central government’s to deliver on.

How does their parliament work?
The Kiwis have just one house made up of 120 members. Labour won a big victory back in 2020, with an outright majority of 65 seats. But after the politicking of the term, they go into the election with 62 MPs.

That’s a tight majority…
Yep – getting a majority in the Kiwi parliament is hard. They have a system of voting that makes it difficult, called mixed member proportional voting. We won’t delve into that… And the polls have Labour – the polls say they’re on track to win about half of those seats. But who knows…

Who are the main players in this election?
After Ardern resigned, the Labour Party has been led by Chris Hipkins. He’s in his mid-40s and has always worked in politics – he was the health minister during the pandemic.

What about the opposition?
That’s the National Party, and its leader is Christopher Luxon. He used to be the CEO of Air New Zealand and has been the leader of the National Party since 2021. The party has had a tough few years, but they’re doing alright under Luxon – they’re beating Labour’s poll numbers, with around 39% support.

That’s not enough for a majority…
Nope. With neither of the major parties on track to form government by themselves, it’s looking like they’re going to have to make a deal with one or more of the minor parties.

Who are they?
Starting with the Greens – they look to be in third place, with around 14% of the vote, according to the polls. The leader of the Greens has actually been the climate change minister since 2017.

Who else is there?
There’s populist party New Zealand First, led by Winston Peters. It was also part of that coalition Ardern put together in 2017, but the party was wiped out in Labour’s landslide win in 2020. This time around, they are climbing in the polls, and it’s possible that they could once again play a key role in deciding which of the major parties gets to form government.

Anyone else to note?
The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers (ACT) Party of New Zealand – it wants to see lower taxes and the shrinking of New Zealand’s public sector. They’re polling at around 9% of the vote, which has led some commentators to speculate that the ACT Party and the National Party might just have enough votes between them to form a government together.

So New Zealand’s political vibe could be very different after this election…
Yep – exciting, huh?

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