New Zealand just wrapped up it’s national election on Saturday, with the National Party winning in commanding fashion. NZ is mostly a two party country, between the National Party, akin to Canada’s Conservatives, and the Labour Party, which would sit somewhere between NDP and Liberal in Canada. National had been the party in power going in – they increased their seats and now hold just under a majority, but with two of the minor parties a near certainty to support them, it’s pretty much a National majority. Sound similar to Canada?
NZ has an interesting take on voting – they use MMP, or mixed member proportional. They are one of only two countries in the Western world to do so – Germany being the other. It is different in that you vote twice when you go – once for a representative from your riding, and once for a political party. It’s interesting, in it allows you to choose to vote for a local rep that you might like, but for a different national party if you so choose. All of the regi0nal representatives that win their ridings get a seat in parliament, and then there are a number of seats in parliament reserved for the party vote. Those party seats are divided based on the national percentage of party vote each party receives. This has an interesting effect, in that it results in both more minority governments being formed, and smaller, fringe groups often gaining seats and a voice.
This election, National trounced Labour, and the Greens picked up quite a lot of party votes (13%), their best showing yet. A lot of this came down to the personalities of the leaders – National’s John Key (the Prime Minister) is a like-able, friendly guy who appears easy going and has a well-honed ‘every-man’ image. Labour’s leader, Phil Goff, came off as an aggressive car-salesman. His likability was in the tank, and Labour suffered for it. It amazes me when parties elect such unlikable people to be their leader…and are surprised when people don’t respond to them favourably. Having a blah/boring person is okay (I’d be hard pressed to differentiate between Harper and a robot at times), but being strongly disliked by many based on your personality (not even your ideas) really hurts. Charisma and good public speaking go a long way. The Green Party here was noted as having very likable main candidates and their big improvement in the polls is believed to be in response to that.
It was interesting watching the campaigns – it really felt quite ‘amateur’ compared to what we see in Canada at times. Which was refreshing at times. The two debates I saw were a lot more debating and back and forth, even with amusing sayings such as Key saying Goff would ‘Spend like a drunken sailor’ if in power, and Goff constantly calling Key a liar based on prior promises. There was a 3rd debate open to all parties (including the smaller ones) which was good to see them get some spotlight. The fringe parties I talk about aren’t ‘fringe’ like they are in Canada (ie Communist Party of Canada). These are smaller, more focused parties, like the Maori party and the Greens which do hold more outside views, but are pretty reasonable all the same.