It is a little known date from the perspective of much of the New Zealand public, but 90 days before an election, New Zealand enters the legal campaign period where political parties will seriously ramp their attempts to – in the case of National and Labour – win the next election; in the case of the Greens, A.C.T., and New Zealand First be in a position to influence the make up of the next Government.
New Zealand entered that 90 day period on Friday. It will last until 2359 hours on 18 September, by which point every political party must have taken down and hidden out of sight all campaign material. All political party websites and social media must be disabled.
The next 87 days are going to see some of the most desperate campaigning in New Zealand political history. National are seeking to avoid a potential thrashing whilst trying to hang on to as many of their 56 Members of Parliament as they can; Labour are gunning to get as close as they can to – I do not believe the New Zealand voting public will grant them one – an absolute majority. An Opposition dominated by a party with no meaningful allies; a Labour-led coalition that at times appears to be going in three different directions are what one has in Parliament.
But what about outside of Parliament? We have a number of parties seeking to get into Parliament.
One is New Conservative. They are led by Leighton Baker and Elliot Ikilei. New Conservative were born out of the wreckage of the Colin Craig-led Conservatives who collapsed in disarray. The New Conservatives have adopted a hard line against crime, abortion and seek to appeal to people of faith.
Another is Social Credit, which is currently led by Chris Leitch with Amanda Vickers as Deputy Leader. Social Credit have recently placed a number of adverts in the Sunday Star Times, suggesting that they have some wealthy backers. Social Credit have in the past been very successful outside of Parliament – during the era of First Past the Post, S.C. gained 20.55% of the vote in 1981; in Mixed Member Proportional that would have given them 25 seats in Parliament, most probably at the expense of New Zealand First and the Greens.
Also seeking entry to Parliament are Prosperity Party New Zealand, who formed in 2019. Prosperity are led by Helen Peterson whose husband Dave is the President. They seek to simplify the tax regime in New Zealand; initiate social welfare framework overhaul with emphasis on children’s affairs.
Given the controversies of recent elections, it will be interesting – for the wrong reasons – to see what scandal comes up in 2020. For example 2011 involved the cup of tea incident where Prime Minister John Key and A.C.T. leader John Banks met at a cafeteria and a journalist left a tape recorder at their table. In 2014 there was the Dirty Politics book saga. In earlier elections during the time of Prime Minister Helen Clark there was Painter-gate in 2002; the Exclusive Brethren and donations scandals in 2005 and the attempts by A.C.T. to get the then Secretary of New Zealand First jailed.
I hope that the election is clean, but with Labour hoping to capitalize on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s popularity and National seeking to avoid a 2002-type thrashing, some underhand tactics are inevitable.