The eyes of the world may be transfixed by the spectacle of the race for the White House, but there’s another election in November that deserves some attention. New Zealand is going to the polls.
There are a few similarities with Britain: Labour has been in office for long time, and there is widespread disillusionment; National (the Tories) has a new, young leader aggressively pursuing the political centre ground…
But there are differences too: most unions are not affiliated to NZ Labour, and the voting system, Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) means that small parties can end up holding the balance of power. One such party is the Maori Party, formed by a split from Labour after a dispute over indigenous rights to the foreshore and seabed. The Maori party has indicated that it would be willing to form a government with either Labour or National, depending on the circumstances. The Greens have made similar noises.
There have been a few recent developments on the left. The Alliance continues to plod along, a left wing split from Labour, now a shadow of its former self since its former president jumped ship back to Labour. It now faces competition from two newly registered parties: RAM and the Workers’ Party.
Residents’ Action Movement is largely the initiative of Socialist Worker, who flew in George Galloway last year to help fight the practically non-existent problem of Islamophobia in New Zealand. The increasingly reformist trajectory of SW resulted in a number of their younger comrades in Auckland splitting to the left to form Socialist Aotearoa.
The Workers’ Party is the product of the merger of two small groups that describe their political background variously as “pro-Mao” and “pro-Trotsky”. “Workers should be running the country” is the party’s slogan for this election, and key policies include open borders and NZ troops out of Afghanistan. The WP has had some recent successes: last year, the west Auckland mayoral election candidate won 2101 votes standing on a hard left platform; and another young member played a leading role in the Wellington bus drivers’ strike/ lockout, having just won presidency of the union.
With lower “barriers to entry” for minor parties, the New Zealand elections could prove more interesting than some other “two horse races”.