Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Zealand: Time for a change, too

Politics, politics, politics. New Zealand's Election 2008 has come and gone, and I am just about utterly drained of all insight after a week packed with parsing polls and picking politicians in two nations, but I'll scrape together a few thoughts on Aotearoa's vote:

Photobucket• In what wasn't really a surprise, National has unseated Labour in the government pretty decisively (Labour barely won 34 percent of the vote), and our new Prime Minister is John Key. Sad to see as I do like Helen Clark, who will still go down as one of NZ's great leaders, but at the same time I never really felt like the electorate was behind her, and frankly, almost any politician is going to have a hard road trying to stay in office after nearly a decade there. As I've mentioned before, I was far less emotionally invested in this country's election than I was in the US, where I would've had to take to bed for a week if McCain had won. I'll see what National does, I guess -- Key is rather mild in demeanor but some of the folks aligned with him are a bit right wing for me.

• Curiously, both Clark and Key tried grabbing for the Obama mantle; Clark noting that the US chose to go left, so vote Labour, Key saying the US went for change, so vote Nationals. There are interesting contrasts and parallels with the US election, though -- a seasoned politician is defeated by a relative political novice, and the opposition party makes big gains. The difference here is, instead of the centrist-left taking over, our government is now moving more to the right. (Ironic, of course, that we left the US during the dark days of Bush and moved to New Zealand, only to have Obama win the US and the right win New Zealand!)

Photobucket• An interesting quirk of New Zealand is that the Electoral Act here actually makes it illegal to do ANYTHING on Election Day that might be construed as influencing votes. Which means suddenly overnight thousands of big campaign signs disappeared; newspapers on Election Day had barely a word about the vote, other than a few non-candidate related short pieces; if you have a bumper sticker on your car you've got to take it off on Election Day. Yow.

• So when we went to vote yesterday I was surprised by how basic the ballots were -- no propositions, no sewer board district candidates, nothing but "two ticks" -- the party vote and the local MP candidate vote. Makes it easy to fill out! Peter was very interested in watching Mum and Dad cast their vote and even got a sticker for voting (which, um, they didn't really let him do).

And with that, we're off to the beach -- as the good wife put it, "two elections in one week is just too much!"

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