One month from now, New Zealand goes to the polls.
Much has changed in New Zealand in the past year, and even more in the past month.
The shake up began with the Kaikoura earthquake in November. John Key, the long time Prime Minister, decided, a few weeks later, to retire. He was replaced with Bill English, who announced the date of the coming election.
English is a former leader of the National Party. He ran the 2002 election as leader, and captured 20.93% of the vote, the lowest ever vote total for National, by far.
In February, Jacinda Ardern, a list MP from Labour, ran for and won a constituency. She was named Deputy Leader. An interesting fact is that Ardern was raised a mormon, but left the church over the issue of gay rights.
By June of 2017, a new scandal had broke. English, who is a list MP, does not have a constituency. The MP who replaced him in his old constituency, also from English's National Party, secretly recorded a conversation, an act illegal in New Zealand. That MP, Todd Barclay, announced he would not run for re-election.
Not only was National Party money supposedly used as a hush fund, but Bill English admitted he was aware of this scandal prior to it becoming public.
In July, Metiria Turei, Co-Leader of the Greens, admitted to not disclosing Rent payments made to her while she was on welfare, also illegal and known as benefits fraud.
A few weeks later on August 1st, Andrew Little, leader of Labour, stepped down. Little had been tied with or trailing Ardern in leadership preference polls since her becoming deputy leader.
On August 3rd, Turei admitted to lying on official elections documents in order to vote for a friend in 1993.
August 7th saw two Green MPs quit the party, and also saw a flare up of the Barclay scandal involving Bill English.
On the 9th, Turei resigned as Greens leader.
Three polls came out in august. All three show Labour above 32%. Labour has not had polls this strong for this long since 2013. Additionally, Ardern has tied English in prefered Prime Minister polling, a feat Labour has not achieved in nearly a decade.
With polling showing a likely loss, United Future leader, Peter Dunne, announced he would not run in the coming election, and is retiring. Polling shows the Maori party likely losing all of their seats as well.
All of this is a massive shift in politics in New Zealand, away from what had been a stable trend that has lasted a decade. It is now unclear who will win the election.
New Zealand uses a fairly simple MMP Proportional Representation system.
There are 64 "Standard" electorates (constituencies) and 7 Maori electorates. Added to these 71 electorate seats are 49 "list" seats. These seats are elected so that the final proportions of parties in the Parliament is equal to the proportion of voters who cast ballots for those parties.
There are two thresholds. If a party wins 5% of the vote, they win list seats. However, a party may also win list seats if it wins any electorate seat.
New Zealand has two major parties, two mid-size parties, and a number of smaller parties.
The National Party, or Nats are New Zealand's answer to Canada's Conservatives. The Nats are a fairly moderate party in comparison, but Bill English's socially conservative views have some potential to change that. Like Stephen Harper, however, English is not expected to allow his social views to impact his governance.
The National is campaigning on continuing what is seen by many as the positive record of government over the past decade. It focuses on issues like Transportation, Justice, and Healthcare.
Labour is a moderate left party, similar to the Labor party in Australia, and more moderate Labour members in the UK. It is best compared in Canada to left-wing Liberals or moderate New Democrats.
With the resignation of Andrew Little, Labour is restarting its campaign. It focuses on change. Labour's transportation policy focuses more on rail than road. Labour wants to reverse the tax cuts in the most recent budget to invest the money in support for social services.
The Greens in New Zealand are a more traditional and left-wing group than that in Canada, and can better be compared to other Green parties elsewhere in the world. The scandals and controversies of late have harmed the Greens.
The party has taken a hard left turn in this election, wishing to increase welfare by 20% and hiking taxes on the richest by 40%. This comes after years of trying to moderate their platform. Most attention, however, has been focused on the scandals of the party.
New Zealand First
This party is seen as populist, but is in reality a vehicle for its leader, Winston Peters. Peters is very popular with a segment of the population, and his party is polling between 5% and 15% of the vote. Most expect that both National and Labour will require NZF support to form a government.
Policies include forcing the government to spend GST in the areas where it is collected, cancelling student loan debt for those willing to work in rural areas, cutting immigration from 73K a year to 10K a year, and holding a referendum on the Maori electorates.
ACT is a Pro-Business and Libertarian party. In practise, it is seen as propping up the Nats, electing 1 electorate seat without the votes needed for a list seat, thus adding a "free seat" to the Nats (compared to if the Nats had won the seat themselves)
Created as a party run by and for the Maori people, this left-wing party has run into trouble due to their support of the National government; polls show they may lose all of their seats.
This is a new party, and the only other party that can realistically win a seat at this point. TOP was founded by Gareth Morgan. The party wishes to tax assets in an effort to reform the tax system to better support wage earners, reduce immigration, and legalize marijuana. Interesting Morgan has called for all cats in New Zealand to be sterilized as to eliminate the cat population, reasoning they are a menace to nature.
It is hard to predict a winner at this point. There are many questions, such as if the Greens will actually pass the threshold. As such there are three basic scenarios that could play out.
This scenario would see Winston Peters get to choose the government.
It remains Winston Peters who is kingmaker, but Bill English now becomes the obvious choice for 'king' in this analogy.
Not nearly as much of a stretch as might be imagined. Ardern is very popular. Still, however, it remains up to Winston Peters; but it appears that as of now, he slightly favours Labour over National.
I will, of course, keep you updated as things progress.