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February 28, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Election Year

2011 is already promising to be an exciting year in New Zealand politics, as the country gears up to vote in the November General Election. The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition’s respective State of the Nation addresses in January saw a surprisingly early first bout, with controversial policies announced on both sides.

Finally John Key seems to be looking to satisfy those on the right, after two years of carefully treading water in the centre. The announcement that National intends to partially privatise up to 49-percent of state-owned power companies is a potentially risky move for Key—a so-called ‘third rail’ in politics, but with an election looming in which National are clear favourites, it’s probably not an unwise time to unveil the intent.

While undeniably transparent, Key’s attitude around the policy is decidedly less honourable, with the announcement that if elected, it would be “unlikely” that a National-led Government would not go ahead with privatization plans, and that not even marching in the streets would change the policy. It will be interesting to see if the public call his bluff on this though, with recent opinion polls finding only 30% in favour of the plan.

Phil Goff revealed a similarly contro-versial policy in his State of the Nation address, advocating a tax free zone on the first $5000 of earnings. Opinion polls illustrate this to be equally as unpopular, meaning that once again Goff has failed to land any effective blows on his opponent. The policy seems to have been interpreted more as a case of tinkering for tinkering’s sake, with voters questioning where money would come from to support such a policy.

This underscores the mounting problems Goff faces leading up to this election. An experienced politician having spent three decades in Parliament, Goff somehow fails to resonate with the New Zealand public. He continues to hover around 6% in popularity rating compared to Key, who comfortably sits in the mid-to-high 40s. Goff really needs to take some huge gambles this year, and push policies that are likely to appeal to those voters Labour lost to National in the 2008 election.

Key has also presented another significant challenge for Goff in his announcement that a vote for New Zealand First would be a vote for a Labour-led Government. By ruling out a coalition with Winston Peters, Key has sent a clear message to National voters, who might have been considering a tactical vote to pull National towards the centre. Goff simply can’t follow suit and rule out a coalition with Peters, as such a coalition is most likely Labour’s only chance of assuming power. Key’s announcement is brilliant politicking, as in addition to kneecapping NZ First, the hit could potentially recruit for National or Labour voters who are averse to any Government with Peters in Cabinet.

NZ First isn’t the only minor party that faces problems either. After the ACT Party’s ructions last year, the party is still on shaky ground, and if National decide to stand someone of any worth in Epsom, it’s highly likely there may not be an ACT Party in Parliament next year. There definitely won’t be a Roger Douglas after revelations he intends to retire (again) at the General Election.

The Maori Party also obviously faces problems with the saga concerning its MP Hone Harawira. The ongoing drama threatens to destabilise the Party, especially as he seems to be the only Member who is actually addressing the issues that concern most Maori.

The Greens seem safe, although they lose the long-serving peace and human rights advocate Keith Locke at the election. While their position in Parliament appears to be safe, I don’t see them making huge gains on their share of the vote. There’s only a certain sector of the population who will tolerate co-leader Russell Norman’s ridiculous protests; the latest, his ludicrous veto disallowing the Australian Prime-Minister Julia Gillard the opportunity to address a formal session of Parliament.

All this aside, as the old adage says: ‘a week is a long time in politics’, and as such, the stage that has been set will undeniably change significantly as November 26 draws closer and closer.

Watch this space.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Electrum Stardust says:

    “I have nothing more to do here,” he said to the king. “So I shall set out on my way again.”

    “Do not go,” said the king, who was very proud of having a subject. “Do not go. I will make you a Minister!”

    “Minister of what?”

    “Minster of–of Justice!” […]

    … — “I HAVE THE POWER!

  2. Electrum Stardust says:

    “I have nothing more to do here,” he said to the king. “So I shall set out on my way again.”

    “Do not go,” said the king, who was very proud of having a subject. “Do not go. I will make you a Minister!”

    “Minister of what?”

    “Minster of–of Justice!” […]

    … — “I HAVE THE POWER!

  3. Electrum Stardust says:

    Sorry- only just found out about this. My heartfelt commiserations.

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