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Tuesday 10 April 2012


Clearing the Debris: Election Summary

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 27th November 2011

john_key_2.jpg
Well, the election is over. What now?
 
National will probably be able to govern with support from the Maori Party. It would probably be advisable for it to still form a coalition with the Maori Party, barring defections and scandals within its caucus over the next three years. However, it may be an uphill battle. In New Zealand electoral cycles, cumulative policy errors tend to show up during the second term of an incumbent government. This may especially be the case with hasty legislation passed under urgency, which disregards evidence and expertise-based objections and is passed on ideological grounds. Certainly, Key administration unfair dismissal, voluntary student unionism and ninety day provisional employment legislation falls into that category, as does the foolhardy asset sale proposals. By the end of the second term, I suspect the Key administration will face a resurgent Labour Party, possibly under a new leader, as well as a disciplined, expanding Green Party- especially if the economy continues to languish under Key and English.
 
The Maori Party retained three seats but lost hard-working Rahui Katene to a resurgent Labour Party. Mana retained its bolthole seat Te Tai Tokerau, which means that LGBT ally Hone Harawira will be back in Parliament. Surprisingly, ACT retained Epsom due to tactical voting, but all of its energies appear to have been exhausted in securing John Banks' re-election, and Don Brash has suggested that he may resign. Only time will tell whether Banks has truly changed and been chastened by experience, although I suspect not. If not, his return may be short-lived. Charles Chauvel didn't win Ohariu-Belmont off United Future, which also survives as a microparty. However, he will be back as a Labour list MP.
 

As for the Conservative Party, their self-depicted accession never happened, and Colin Craig didn't win Rodney. All in all, they polled about two and a half percent, about the high-tide mark of its predecessor, the Christian Heritage Party.

New Zealand First staged a comeback campaign during this election, which probably blunted the scale of the Greens comeback. It will be a challenge for Winston Peters to see whether the party can work constructively with Labour and the Greens against the National Party's asset sales and welfare retrenchment agenda. And here's an ironic lesson for National- trust the Christian Right and pay the price. When it all comes down to it, it will vote on the basis of its own selfish, sectional interests and not in the national interest. They preferred Winston due to his hardline social conservatism, so they voted for him and deprived National of an absolute majority. Unfortunately, it is also a solid social conservative voting bloc.

What about Labour and the Greens? For all the criticism of Phil Goff's leadership, he gave a strong election campaign performance, although that didn't culminate in electoral victory. Still,Labour's strong, developed party policies are a robust basis for further recovery. Given that he lost the campaign though, I would not be surprised if he doesn't last long as leader after this defeat. However, it should not be denied that he had certain strengths- strategy, disciplined leadership and policy development still took place under his tenure as leader, and he should be proud of that legacy. Andrew Little is now in Parliament as a Labour list MP, and thereare also Shane Jones and Grant Robertson.

Undoubtedly, the Greens benefited from the Rena disaster and there is also an international trend to consider when it comes to surging Green parliamentary party support in Germany, Australia and elsewhere. National has shown itself to be vulnerable on environmental risk management and the Greens can exploit that credibility gap- one wonders why they didn't learn that lesson from the polling slide of the German Christian Democrats after the Fukushima tragedy and anxiety about German nuclear reactor safety. Read 'oil drilling' for 'nuclear power' and National deserves all it gets if it decides to go down that road. Pandering to astroturfer right-wing climate change denialists and delaying the pace of climate change adaptation is also handing the Greens a useful tool.

As for the unnecessary MMP referendum, MMP won, due to the sterling organisational efforts and media presence of the Keep MMP Campaign, against a largely lacklustre and astroturfer anti-MMP movement, especially given that the latter campaigned for the Supplementary Member electoral option despite its anti-proportionality and questionable track record in South Korea during its authoritarian turn of government. First Past the Post got the conservative nostalgic donkey vote, while the Single Transferable Vote came third. There may well be another referendum on fine-tuning MMP, perhaps through erasing the loophole that allows microparties to slither in well under the five percent threshold if they only win one parliamentary seat.

What about us? I am disappointed in this result. I thought Labour ran a stronger campaign than many expected, but in the case of National, incumbency fatigue hasn't yet set in. It means that unless there is some elaborate footwork, we will not see inclusive adoption reform or transgender equality during the next parliamentary session. Added to that, low-income LGBT community members will be victimised by the government's hamfisted welfare retrenchment policies, with their despicable demonisation of beneficiaries when the government's own inept fiscal management is to blame for their situation, unless the Maori Party puts its foot down during coalition negotiations. We should also be on our guard if outsourcing of social services occurs to organisations like Destiny Church, Parents Inc or other fundamentalist Christian organisations or pressure groups, or there are questionable government appointments. What is amusing is that the Christian Right didn't want Key to win either, given its clear preference for New Zealand First.

Three more years. But then...? Apart from the Maori Party, National has two single-seat microparties as fragile buffers, which can be easily discarded.


Craig Young - 27th November 2011

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