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Fully on the fence bro
August 10, 2014 3:19 AM   Subscribe

New Zealand's next general election is in September. With the 2011 turnout (74%) the third lowest in a century, political groups are working hard to increase youth enrolment, turnout on the day and political engagement in general. And they're not afraid of using cartoon sheep where necessary. Bonus: record levels of political billboard vandalism.
posted by superfish (49 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Haha, I love it.

I'm across the ditch, and we never really seem to hear much from you guys. Any Kiwi MeFites wanna spin us what the stakes are in this election?
posted by Quilford at 3:53 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not super high. A bland and competent (though increasingly sleazy) centrist incumbent, a mildly incompetent slightly more leftist former incumbent, and a few independents (who'll go with the winner). There's also a robust but rumpy Green party and the amusing wild card of Kim Dotcom's Internet Party, who despite the occasional controversial rally aren't likely to make much of an impact.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:15 AM on August 10, 2014


What the hell is Internet-Mana and why am I voting for them? I keep dithering on registering to vote overseas because it feels disingenuous, given that I've barely ever lived there, but Internet-Mana is such a great name, and the cartoon sheep tells me that I agree with their policies about 98%.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:22 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


74%.... seems quite high? of course you want it as high as possible...
posted by Bwithh at 4:26 AM on August 10, 2014


74% is very high, compared to Europe
posted by DreamerFi at 4:34 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


A little more detail on Internet Mana and the local music industry [advisory: swears]. Also, veteran local metal band Shihad have also come out against the government. Which is a welcome change, I guess, from the boring corporate post grunge they've been cranking out since the mid-90s.

On a personal note, I recently realised I'm in eligible to vote in the election since I haven't been back to NZ since leaving in 2010. It's a weird, stateless feeling. I'd like to think enough NZers have seen through Key's empty corporate populism by now to consider turfing him out, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:39 AM on August 10, 2014


74%? If the USA had that level of participation the geopolitical structure of the world would be different.
posted by ZaneJ. at 5:09 AM on August 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


Yeah, I do not want to get too far into the apathy-measuring, but it looks like the last couple of of NZ general elections before this were around the 80% mark for voter turnout; in Canada you have to go back about half a century to find those levels. Nothing like having a majority government elected by 39% of the 61% of people who voted. Yes, 24% of the electorate is an unassailable mandate.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:30 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Mr. Mosley: "New Zealand had their third lowest election turnout in 2011. Wanna guess what it was?"
Mrs. Mosley: "What was it?"
Mr. Mosley: "74%"
Mrs. Mosley: "Let's move."
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:05 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's easier for New Zealanders to feel engaged in the general election because it's such a small and cohesive country; there are very few mediating layers between you and the government, and government policies are often felt to have a very direct impact on people's lives. In the US and Canada city politics and state/provincial politics muddy the waters, so that voters are often unsure what impact their vote will have at a national level. Similarly in Europe, regional affiliations often trump the sense of identification with specifically national issues; Northern Italians feel more identification with, say, the French than they do with Southern Italians; the Catalan, similarly, identify with Northern Europe more than with Southern Spain etc. etc.
posted by yoink at 6:37 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here's my somewhat cynical take on the parties in the running:

National: Centre-right, a one leader party intent on selling off the family jewels to appease any foreigners who might want to buy our milk and cheese.

Labour: Left of centre-right ie wherever the breeze happens to be blowing. Change leaders like underwear ever since Dear Leader Helen found a better job. Will buy back any jewels with magic beans.

Greens: Left. Previously fought to save whales but since that battle was won have been sort of milling in confusion trying to figure out how green they need to stay.

Maori: Maori-aligned, whatever that means. Split from Labour because it wasn't "left" enough then held hands with National for the last two terms because they were allowed to talk in Te Reo.

Mana: Hone-aligned. Split from Maori because Maori wasn't maori enough. Now in a de-facto relationship with KDC's Internet Party Party because... er... well apparently he's got beads and muskets.

NZ First. "We-don't-know aligned, lead by Winston who plays a maori who doesn't want to be maori. We call him the Kingmaker. Appeals to anyone who believes what he says.

United Future: National aligned because they need him to take the blame for stuff. Probably destined for no united non-future this time because the load of guilt is too great for one man.

Conservative: Rich person thinks he can buy the government, but has not yet learned how to stop eating his foot.

Because we have MMP system, a single sitting MP can form their own party and if they retain a majority, can pull other party members in with them, known as the coat-tail effect, so there have been some rather interesting juggling acts going on.

The low turnout is more likely because there is no "lesser of two evils".
posted by arzakh at 6:42 AM on August 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm also ineligable to vote for the first time and find it quite freeing. Now I can really not give a shit, it's legally mandated that I do so. Well, I do give a shit, I loath John Key, but I don't feel like I can make any different in that regard so *shrug*. No votes for me.

Pretty much all my friends from various other countries get a bit horrified when they find out I'm not allowed to vote in my own country any more even though I don't live there. Whereas I've spent too many years seeing the stupid votes cast by my family and friends from outside the country because they don't really know what's going on (which was clear when trying to discuss this with them) and don't have much at stake any more (so don't care about the consequences). So I'm actually good with the idea that if you don't even bother to set foot there once an election cycle then you don't get to join in.
posted by shelleycat at 6:47 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Does New Zealand have compulsory voting like Australia does? If so, 74% seems pretty low. Otherwise, yeah, that seems really high to me, but I think it's pretty relative. If you expect almost universal voting, then any decline in civic engagement is going to be alarming. And it may be that people in New Zealand look at Europe and the US, and instead of thinking "we're doing a lot better than them," they think "holy crap, if we're not careful we could end up like them!"
The low turnout is more likely because there is no "lesser of two evils".
What's interesting about how you laid things out is that it's so... rational and issues-based. My sense is that in a lot of other places, people vote based on a vague sense of affiliation or that these are the people who represent people like me. Is there none of that "this is the party for farmers, and that is the party for urban sophisticates" business that you get in other countries?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:50 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's easier for New Zealanders to feel engaged in the general election because it's such a small and cohesive country; there are very few mediating layers between you and the government, and government policies are often felt to have a very direct impact on people's lives.

Yup. For example, I've been actively, directly, personally damaged in some way (generally financially) every time the Government changed from Labour to National, and occasionally when National just felt like it. Labour has never really specifically helped me personally, but at least they've never screwed me over the way National has. In the end it was a specific National-driven law change that made me decide to get out for good (one that didn't effect me specifically that time, just screwed over many of my friends and greatly reduced my future employment prospects).

But at the same time, NZ is apparently doing quite well economically at the moment based on various measures, so it seems that National is doing something right. So maybe me and people like me aren't that important to the countries overall economic health anyway. And I agree that the current Labour party isn't a strong choice either so meeeeeeh.
posted by shelleycat at 6:55 AM on August 10, 2014


Voting isn't compulsory but registration is. Which simply means the candidates can spam you with personalised "vote for me" letters.

Country electorates (ie farming) are traditionally right wing, and urban is usually (but not necessarily) left. The minor parties target the gaps.
posted by arzakh at 6:55 AM on August 10, 2014


Does New Zealand have compulsory voting like Australia does?

Being enrolled to vote is compulsory, actually voting isn't. And the turn out at local elections, like for Mayors and stuff, can be really very low.
posted by shelleycat at 6:56 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's easier for New Zealanders to feel engaged in the general election because it's such a small and cohesive country

If that was the case then the Netherlands could've such levels of voting too.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:02 AM on August 10, 2014


Oh also, when you do vote you don't have to show any ID, they just cross your name and address off a list (you get sent a letter to give them that makes it easier, but it's not compulsory). And the election is generally (always?) held on a Saturday. So voting is super easy.

And it's always worth voting even if you don't have a local candidate you care about because you get to vote for a party as well. So, for example, when I lived somewhere where I liked the local MP but hated her party, and she had a huge majority anyway, I went and didn't vote for an MP (or maybe voted for a joke one, can't remember) but did vote for the party I liked. Whereas the one time I voted under the old system my local MP, whom I loathed, had one of the biggest, stablest majorities in the country so I didn't bother to vote. That thing where at least some part of your vote feels useful probably helps increase voter turnout too.
posted by shelleycat at 7:11 AM on August 10, 2014


I took the test and got Internet-Mana, Green and Labour in that order. The only thing I didn't really have an opinion about was the question about some treaty.
posted by codacorolla at 7:19 AM on August 10, 2014


If that was the case then the Netherlands could've such levels of voting too.

By "small" I was referring to NZ's population of 4 million. The Netherland's population of 16 million puts it in a rather different category. The Dutch House of Representatives as 150 seats. The NZ parliament has 120 (although due to the vagaries of MMP that number can float up by a few under certain circumstances). Each Dutch politician represents approximately 100K citizens; each NZ MP represents approx 30K. Your sense of your personal stake in (and individual importance to) your representatives is an order of magnitude higher in New Zealand than in the Netherlands.
posted by yoink at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2014


And it's always worth voting even if you don't have a local candidate you care about because you get to vote for a party as well.
I apologize if I missed this in one of the links, but I'm totally intrigued. So you vote for both an MP and a party? What does the party vote decide?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:03 AM on August 10, 2014


The monopoly man billboard redo is amazing.
posted by mathowie at 8:05 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, we have Mixed Member Proportional representation. The party vote decides what overall proportion of the seats each party gets (more or less) and the person vote decide who your local MP is. 70 MPs are from the local electorates, the rest are from the party list and are portioned out according to the party vote (taking the local MPs into account of course). You have to get at least 5% of the party vote or one local MP in to be in the government.

It's not perfect but I like it.
posted by shelleycat at 8:32 AM on August 10, 2014


74% turnout is disturbingly high not disturbingly low. We know most people in do little better/worse than a coin flip in terms of political facts so why encourage them to vote? It is like encouraging drunks to drive - only going to cause damage.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 8:44 AM on August 10, 2014


... In the end it was a specific National-driven law change that made me decide to get out for good (one that didn't effect me specifically that time, just screwed over many of my friends and greatly reduced my future employment prospects).

shelleycat, if it's not putting more personal information on the internet than you're comfortable with, what was the law?

As an American my gov't passes many horrible laws, but I haven't yet thought "that's it, I'm leaving". Or maybe NZers just have a higher baseline expectation that they might leave NZ, it being so much smaller?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2014


From an Australian perspective I thought it was interesting that the On The Fence link asked my opinion on the Treaty of Waitangi. Is the role of the treaty an actually a point of contention in the upcoming election, or were those questions intended more of a useful indicator of what kinds of policies I'd be likely to support more generally?
posted by langtonsant at 10:21 AM on August 10, 2014


They cancelled FRST postdoc and Bright Futures PhD funding and it got zero media coverage. I was on my way out anyway, but choosing a postdoc overseas that paid a living wage vs, well, nothing in NZ was a pretty easy decision and there is nothing left in the science industry there to bring me back. The reduced NIH funding in the US is starting to drive people away from there too btw, with the added difficulty that there aren't many places left for us to go.

For the rest, basically I've had really bad luck with my timing over the years, going back to Uni right when they muck up allowances, that kind of thing.
posted by shelleycat at 10:26 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


(I guess saying they cancelled postdoc funding is a bit simplistic, they greatly reduced how many are given and changed the eligibility criteria and did some other stuff at the same time blah blah, but the end result is still the same for someone just out of a PhD)
posted by shelleycat at 10:29 AM on August 10, 2014


I think it would be a fascinating psephology project for someone to investigate how the mandatory voter registration affects voter turnout, using comparisons with compulsory voting (i.e. as in Australia) as well as totally laissez-faire voter registration (i.e. as in Poland).
posted by yellowcandy at 10:48 AM on August 10, 2014




Is the role of the treaty an actually a point of contention in the upcoming election, or were those questions intended more of a useful indicator of what kinds of policies I'd be likely to support more generally?
It's always a point of contention, because right-wing and populist parties like to make it a target when race-baiting: Conservatives, NZ First. Responses from the left: Greens, Internet-Mana
posted by Paragon at 2:13 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


The treaty is pretty contentious, because legal interpretations can and have meant significant money and power changes across NZ, and it's a document with two translations and uneven acceptance within different laws and groups. It would be a lot easier for the status quo powers to have it reduced to a historical document only, but there's just as much push for it to be accepted. Weirdly, my mostly apolitical dad retired to farming in NZ and then pragmatically enrolled as a Maori through some family history connection because he thought the Treaty would eventually grow in influence and he wanted the paperwork sorted out in advance.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:52 PM on August 10, 2014


As an American my gov't passes many horrible laws, but I haven't yet thought "that's it, I'm leaving". Or maybe NZers just have a higher baseline expectation that they might leave NZ, it being so much smaller?

Possibly more the latter - we are a nation both of immigrants and emigrants - roughly 25% of the people living in NZ were born overseas, but roughly 14% of the NZ-born population live overseas (although many of those won't be permanent emigrants).
posted by Pink Frost at 3:57 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Any Kiwi MeFites wanna spin us what the stakes are in this election?
The sitting centre-right coalition (led by the National Party) employs death-by-a-thousand-cuts government. No major policy initiatives to rock the boat or make them unpopular, but sustained reductions in funding for the areas that the right wing typically hate (education, healthcare, equity - Shelleycat's example is one of many). They spin themselves as fiscal conservatives, and respond to each and every opposition policy initiative with "we can't afford that, you'll put us all in debt" scaremongering. It's a canny position to take, and they'll very likely win another term in office.

The stakes? For us frogs, the water gets hotter.
posted by Paragon at 4:04 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


What the hell is Internet-Mana and why am I voting for them?

It's a temporary alliance between the Internet Party, founded by Kim Dotcom + the Mana Party, founded by Hone Harawira after he split from the Maori Party over their support for the National government.

It's basically a flag of convenience for the Internet Party. If Harawira wins his seat, and the I-M alliance gets say 2-3% of the vote, then they'll bring in a couple of list MPs (which would be Laila Harre for the Internet Party). Whereas probably none of the Internet Party candidates would win an electorate, and they won't get 5% on their own so they won't get any list MPs.

The problem with the Internet Party is that they don't really have any policies other than 'moar internets' and 'less censorship and spying and copyright', which are all good things but you really need to have, say, a more well-formed education policy.
posted by Pink Frost at 5:30 PM on August 10, 2014


Also, ref the Internet Party, there is a more-than-rumour floating around that KDC is using the platform to dodge his little extradition problem.
posted by arzakh at 7:05 PM on August 10, 2014


74% turnout is disturbingly high not disturbingly low. We know most people in do little better/worse than a coin flip in terms of political facts so why encourage them to vote? It is like encouraging drunks to drive - only going to cause damage.

I'd rather 74% of the country coin flips than 50% of the country.

But then I live in Australia. I like our 94% turnout.
posted by crossoverman at 10:12 PM on August 10, 2014


But at the same time, NZ is apparently doing quite well economically at the moment based on various measures, so it seems that National is doing something right.

I think that's mostly smoke and mirrors. National's economic policies are straight out of the 1920s: borrow money, cut things down, dig things up, milk some cows, and make fun of anyone who wants anything better. Under their watch, health, education, and social equality have measurably declined. The country's waterways are full of cowshit. New Zealand universities have quietly slipped out of the world top 100 as their funding has been cut year on year. Young academics have had to emigrate due to a complete lack of prospects at home. Social justice issues have been treated with either condescension or outright contempt. The country is run by a millionaire mostly expatriate (no one expects him not to run off back to Hawaii once he gets bored with the Prime Ministership), whose children are educated privately or overseas. Real banana republic stuff. The rebuilding of earthquake-devastated Christchurch has been botched and riddled with corruption and political interference. If National get 3 more years, it's curtains really for anyone who wants something other than a moo-moo-industry-focused country run for large business owners and other contemptible oligarchs and their local cronies. So yeah.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:06 AM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's just as well I can't vote this election. I'd find it hard to put all that on a ballot form.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:09 AM on August 11, 2014


Internet-Mana, Maori, Labour, though I had a few other parties show up as first on particular issues.

My wife and I have long wished to move to New Zealand, but we don't know if we could make a living and we don't know if they'd take us (and have reason to suspect they wouldn't).
posted by Four Ds at 9:19 AM on August 11, 2014


The treaty is pretty contentious, because legal interpretations can and have meant significant money and power changes across NZ, and it's a document with two translations and uneven acceptance within different laws and groups

Oh, that's really interesting. The Maori and English versions of the treaty do seem to be very different to each other on critical points. I could totally see how the distinction between retaining rights to "property" versus retaining rights to "taonga" could be a massive and ongoing source of dispute. Makes me wonder what would have happened if there had ever been a treaty in Australia. The policies of the Mana party on treaty settlements remind me a lot of the discussions of native title in Australia, but the fact that there's a historical document (or two!) to work from does give it a very different character.

(Also, I am now totally in love with the NZ use of the word "mana". Can we nick that one?)
posted by langtonsant at 9:25 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's a document with two translations

To be precise, it's a document with one translation: into English. There is no legal question whatever that the Maori language version is "the treaty" which the Maori chiefs entered into, and not legal question whatever that it is the terms of that Maori version which must be seen as a foundational document for any understanding of New Zealand's political constitution.
posted by yoink at 11:40 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Young academics have had to emigrate due to a complete lack of prospects at home.

Yeah, that's me and all my friends. Well, I can think of one from my general PhD cohort who's stayed behind in actual academia in NZ (and I'm talking about numerous students from all across the country and across a widesh timespan, not just my class at Uni, I knew a lot of other students for various reasons), but she's now applying for funding so we'll see how long that lasts. One other is in industry (real industry, not CRIs), the rest of us are gone. It seemed that this is what the government wanted, so that's what they got.
posted by shelleycat at 12:19 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


To be precise, it's a document with one translation: into English. There is no legal question whatever that the Maori language version is "the treaty" which the Maori chiefs entered into, and not legal question whatever that it is the terms of that Maori version which must be seen as a foundational document for any understanding of New Zealand's political constitution.

Sorry, I think I must be misunderstanding something here. I did some more reading, and the Wikipedia page seems to indicate that Hobson drafted the English version first, and then asked Williams to translate it into Maori. Both versions were read aloud for the Feb 5th discussions, and as far as I can from the NZ archives site, both versions were signed (though I wasn't too sure about whether both English and Maori texts were sent around the country afterwards... every site I looked at seemed vague on this). So chronologically, there doesn't seem to be a dispute that the English version was written first and then translated into Maori. But that's a totally different question from determining which version has legal primacy, which is where I started getting really lost...

I found this (pdf) summary by Network Waitangi that seems to make a pretty sensible case that the Maori version has primacy, in large part because any ambiguity should legally be interpreted against the party that introduced said ambiguity (the Crown in this case) and the Maori version is the one less favourable to the Crown. Plus, the ratio of Maori to Pakeha speakers strongly suggests that the Maori language version was the one most people would have been contemplating at the time.

But they also point out that the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 requires (in Section 5(2) I think) that the Waitangi Tribunal "shall have regard to the 2 texts", which seems to imply that the Crown doesn't actually agree with their claim that the Maori version has primacy. The "how to law" webpage doesn't say much about this topic other than this is messy. The Wikipedia page does list a bunch of cases that seem to imply that the case law on the question of whether the Crown is bound by the Treaty is complicated, but that too seems like a different question to which version of the Treaty should be deemed authoritative. Is there some case law that establishes the primacy of the Maori version which I was just unable to find?

Also, I looked at the Mana party policy on treaty settlements, and one of their goals is to
Ensure the texts of He Whakaputanga o Ngā Rangatiratanga o Niu Tireni and Te Tiriti o Waitangi are the reference points in settlement dealings between iwi and hapū and the Crown, and not the Crown’s principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
If I've understood this rightly, what they seem to be saying is that their goal is to ensure that the Maori version of the text is established as the authoritative version (and also that the Crown's principles not be used for interpretation of the treaty). But if that's their current goal, doesn't that imply that the issue is one that has not yet been legally resolved? Why have a policy to "ensure" something that something you've already achieved?

What am I missing here? I can see that there's a pretty reasonable argument that if one version of the text should have legal primacy it's the Maori version, but I couldn't find anything that says that the primacy of the Maori text was a settled matter of law. I'm really confused!
posted by langtonsant at 9:00 AM on August 12, 2014


Oh, the Maori signatures are mostly on the Maori text, but the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 refers to both versions of the text anyway. I see. Wish I'd found that FAQ page earlier.

I'll shut up now! Sorry, it's really interesting, but maybe a little off topic...
posted by langtonsant at 10:16 AM on August 12, 2014


Is there some case law that establishes the primacy of the Maori version which I was just unable to find?
Not exactly—it's the legal principle of contra preferentum as applied to Treaty Law, the idea being that the indigenous-language versions of treaties signed with colonial powers are the binding ones. The Waitangi Tribunal has commented on this (see p. 19).
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:18 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


NZ First. "We-don't-know aligned, lead by Winston who plays a maori who doesn't want to be maori. We call him the Kingmaker. Appeals to anyone who believes what he says.

He also appeals to old folks with his free-bus-rides-for-over-65s policy and his attitude of "We don't mind having Asians here, but not too many please."

United Future: National aligned because they need him to take the blame for stuff. Probably destined for no united non-future this time because the load of guilt is too great for one man.

This is totally unfair. United Future is aligned with whichever party is in power. Peter Dunne knows that he's johnny-no-mates, and he'll go along with whatever the big kids decide.

Conservative: Rich person thinks he can buy the government, but has not yet learned how to stop eating his foot.

First he has to learn to walk. He's almost figured it out.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:57 PM on August 12, 2014


First he has to learn to walk. He's almost figured it out.

Get this man a Bigfoot suit, stat.
posted by yoink at 4:29 PM on August 12, 2014


BOOM.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 4:24 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


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