NZ elections

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Sat Jul 27 18:50:08 MDT 2002


The results are in.  Labour is back in although, once again, it cannot
govern alone.  Its share in the 120-seat parliament rose from 49 to 52,
while it won 41 percent of the party vote, down form the 55 percent it
was riding at in polls when Labour leader Clark decided to go for an
early election.  The opposition National Party slumped to the worst
result in a century for a conservative party, winning only 27 seats and
21 percent of the party vote.

A whopping 38 percent of the voting public opted for 'small parties'.

One small party, however, the left-of-Labour formation called the
Alliance has collapsed.  The party had ten MPs in the last parliament
and was in coalition with Labour.  It went into crisis after September
11, with a split occurring earlier this year.  Alliance leader and
outgoing deputy prime minister Jim Anderton along with a small majority
of MPs walked out.  Several of these MPs retired, while Anderton and
three others formed a new party, the Progressive Coalition, on the basis
of the supposedly great record of the government and support for Bush's
war on 'terrorism'.  Anderton held his constituency seat, albeit with a
much-reduced majority, while the PC's 1.8 percent of the party vote gave
it an additional MP.  (In NZ's proportional representation, you need to
get either 5 percent of the party vote to get any MPs, or win a
constituency seat in which case you also get representation in line with
your vote on the party list.)

The remaining faction of the Alliance, under outgoing women's and youth
affairs minister Laila Harre, and including the section of the party
which was a bit more critical of the 'war on terror' and wanted a
stronger branding of the Alliance within government, was annihilated.
While Harre came within 2,000 votes of winning a seat, Alliance
candidates' votes in general were reduced to a few hundred.  In Auckland
Central, which had been an Alliance seat from 1993-6, the Alliance
candidate got a mere 306 votes.  In Christchurch East, where the
Alliance had 4-5,000 votes in the early-mid 1990s, their candidate won
only 288 votes.

It looks like NZ will have a Labour/PC minority government, backed by
the Greens.

While the Greens lost their one constituency seat, with a major collapse
of their vote there, their list vote rose, meaning they will have 8 MPs
in the new parliament, compared with a previous 7.  The Greens will
support a Labour-led government so long as the moratorium on GE release
remains in place.  However, the moratorium is set to be lifted in
October 2003.  The Greens have made extension of the moratorium their
line in the sand, and have promised to withdraw support from Labour if
the moratorium is not extended after October 2003.

The two big winners from the election are NZ First, a nationalist party
which increased from 5 seats to 12 or 13.  This is still four less than
the party won in 1996, when it swept all the Maori seats as well as its
leader, Winston Peters, holding his Tauranga stronghold.  NZ First is a
strange beast.  It won all the Maori seats off Labour, before collapsing
while it was in coalition with National.  NZF has a mixed constituency
of elderly white people, mainly ex-National Party supporters who
disliked the 'new right' policies of the early 1990s, and a sizeable
Maori vote.  This election NZF campaigned on three planks - abolition of
the treaty of Waitangi industry, a halt to immigration, and
strengthening law and order.

The other big winner was United Future NZ, a party which for years has
had only one MP, peter Dunne.  Dunne was originally a Labour MP, and
before the 1996 election he, some other Labour MPs and some National MPs
formed the United Party as a moderate centre party.  All the other MPs
lost their seats, and Dunne struggled on alone.  A few years ago they
fused with the Christian group Future NZ to become United Future NZ.
Dunne's fortune seems to be largely due to 'the worm', a device which
shows how a room of 100 undecided voters are 'feeling' during the
televised party leaders' debate.  The worm loved Dunne most and the next
thing, his party shot up from under 1 percent to about 6-7 percent in
the polls.  It will now have 9 seats in the new parliament.

The other party represented in parliament is the 'new right' ACT party,
which kept its nine seats.

At 'revolution' we have argued that the NZ Labour Party has long since
become a liberal-bourgeois party and has in recent years been the
preferred government party of the NZ ruling class.  The election
certainly confirmed this - most business money, for instance, went to
Labour, while National was cash-strapped.

On the far left, there were some interesting developments.  'revolution'
and the (pro-Mao) Workers Party, both tiny circles of people, formed an
Anti-Capitalist Alliance (ACA) which ran four candidates - two in
Auckland (both WP), one in Wellington (Revo) and one in Christchurch
(Revo).  I had the privilege of being the candidate in Christchurch.

Although the ACA began with a mere handful of people, our campaign
represents the biggest left intervention in elections in a couple of
decades!  This will give readers an idea of the tiny size and influence
of the far left here!  Our votes were 90 (in Mt Albert, Auckland), 52 in
Manukau East (Auckland), 68 in Mana (Wellington) and 73 in Christchurch East.

To put this in perspective, the Communist League, which has been running
election campaigns siince 1971 and used to be the major group on the far
left in the 70s and 80s, ran two candidates who got 87 and 63 votes
respectively.  Our candidates also got, on average, about a quarter of
the vote of Alliance candidates in the same seats, even though the
Alliance was the third biggest party in the outgoing parliament, and had
hundreds of thousands of dollars of state funding over the last few years.

As both WPNZ and Revo have pointed out there is simply no material base
in NZ these days for the kind of leftish social democratic polcies
espoused by the Alliance.  Genuine leftists in that party will now have
to either look further left or end up in the LP or the Greens.  The
Alliance results were so awful that it is unlikely they will be able to rebuild.

Philip Ferguson

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