On the last day of campaigning before New Zealand’s general election, the leaders of the two major political parties in the country made a last-ditch effort to shift votes in their party’s favor.
The leaders battled during their most intense discussion to date, which took place on Thursday night and was broadcast on TVNZ as the last debate of the campaign. Chris Hipkins, a representative for Labour, delivered his final speech to the people in which he cautioned them that a vote for the opposition would result in an increase in poverty and would slow down efforts to combat climate change.
“It’s natural to look for change when times are tough, but change has consequences – if Christopher Luxon wins, you lose,” Hipkins said. “If you lose, Christopher Luxon wins.” “There is a better way – Labour will help you with the cost of living and will grow the economy.” [There is] “There is a better way.”
Christopher Luxon, the leader of the National Party, used his last address to make a series of campaign pledges, including ones to lower the cost of living, provide tax relief, restore peace and order, and enhance healthcare and education.
“Kiwis know we can be so much better than this – National has the team, energy, and positive plans to take us forward,” Luxon said. “National has the ability to take us forward.”
Even while expectations of a green wave for Labour’s usual coalition partner, the Green party, may result in a record 15 seats in parliament, the polling predicts that the right bloc is set to topple the governing Labour party in Saturday’s election. The election will take place on Saturday. Even with the last seats that have been forecast for the Green party, polls suggest that Labour will not be able to reach the threshold of 61 MPs required to rule. Te Pti Mori, the second possible coalition partner on the left for Labour, is likewise having trouble gaining traction in the political arena last time.
According to Lara Greaves, an associate professor in the department political science at Victoria University of Wellington, the left may not have completely lost all hope, but the support that Labour has received in recent surveys may be too little, too late. This is something that Greaves says she believes.
“It is unclear how much of a role voter turnout will play, and it is also unclear whether underestimating Labour’s performance at the polls will play out as well… there are so many aspects that it feels like a close one,” Greaves said.
The expected tilt to the right in New Zealand would bring an end to Labour’s six years in administration, which included the years of the Covid-19 outbreak, the attacks on the Christchurch mosques, and the eruption of the Whakaari volcano. It would also definitively bring an end to Jacinda Ardern’s tenure in politics.
The party was swept into power on a wave of “Jacindamania” in 2017, and it required the help of the Greens and the minor New Zealand First party to guarantee its victory under New Zealand’s electoral system, which is a variant of the mixed-member proportional (MMP) model. In other words, the Greens and New Zealand First were necessary for the party to win. The following year, in 2020, it was returned to power in a landslide off the back of its world-leading pandemic response, giving it the largest mandate of any New Zealand government in nearly 30 years.
In the years that have passed, an increase in the cost of living and a post-pandemic melancholy have translated into unhappiness with the political status quo. Furthermore, the party no longer has the incredible star-power of Jacinda Ardern to strengthen its appeal, since she abruptly resigned in January of this year.
However, the National Party on the center-right has not seen a significant increase in support as a result of Labour’s tragedy. The polls taken in the run-up to the election have shown that confidence in the centrist parties has decreased, while confidence in the more obscure parties has increased. The sentiment that country is headed in wrong direction is shared by the vast majority of citizens, reversing two decades of constant public pleasure under Labour and National governments alike.
This has resulted in a boost for the more radical right-wing and populist parties, which is good news for parties on the left such as the Greens, which is hoovering up votes from those who want to see stronger action taken on climate change and transformative investment in the social security net. However, this has also resulted in a boost for parties on the left, which is good news for parties on the right.
“I would say it is bittersweet for the Greens because if the left loses they are not part of the government, but they will have a lot of new MPS, a lot of new talent, and a lot of future ministers there that they can build up and create quite a basis for opposition,” Greaves said. “I would say it is a bittersweet situation for the Greens because if the left loses they are not part of the government.”
However, in the end, she believes that Winston Peters and his populist New Zealand First party would emerge victorious in this election “because they will hold quite a bit of power,” as she stated earlier. The final few weeks of the election campaign saw a surge in support for New Zealand First, the party that ultimately lost power in the election that took place in 2020.
In order to form a government, it appears like National will need to rely on both the libertarian-right Act party and New Zealand First (which has ruled out working with Labour again), and this could result in a government that is far more conservative than what New Zealand is used to seeing.
Greaves stated that it is anyone’s guess as to what the practical manifestation of the interaction between the three parties will look like. And it looks like New Zealanders are in for a wait — Greaves stated that when Peters has controlled the balance of power in previous elections, he has dragged out the negotiation process for weeks on end.
“If you look back to 1996, Winston Peters kept all of us waiting for a total of two months… A lot of individuals were busy putting up their Christmas decorations… In 2017, it took him a total of four weeks to complete… therefore, it’s possible that this will take a considerable amount of time.”