Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Time!

(above from NZ Herald)

Whilst the rest of the world remains enthralled by what is happening over in the USA, the little hidden away islands of New Zealand have their own decisions to make - yes, Saturday 8th November is also Election Time for NZ. Today is the day NZ may or may not be voting in a new government and new Prime Minister!

I am quite excited about this - but why I don't really know. As I've only been a Permanent Resident in New Zealand for 6 months I am not entitled to vote yet (stupid immigration service took waaayy too long sorting out my visa...) So why should I really pay much attention to what is happening? I guess because even though I can't vote I still live and work here, pay taxes, and use health and public services - therefore politics do affect me, even if I can't affect them.

New Zealand has a completely different system to what I am used to - here they use the Mixed Member Proportional system to elect the 120 seat Government. (In the UK, we have first-past-the-post). This means that while the Labour Party (left wing) and the National Party (centre-right wing) are the two main parties, they often have to ally with smaller third parties, such as NZ First or the Green Party, in order to form a Government. Currently Labour is in power, but with a minority Government, so they have agreements with other parties in order to remain in power. This is all quite confusing!

All I know is there seems to be a lot of minority parties in NZ, and they all seem to have a bigger voice that what I remember the UK parties having. I found this helpful article about what the parties are offering (although it's geared towards student voters...) I also discovered that the official Elections website has a funky quiz you can take to test how much you understand about MMP. It makes squeaky noises! Surprisingly, I managed to get 6 out of 9 correct... not too bad...

The current Prime Minister is Helen Clark (leader of the Labour Party). She has been in power for 9 years now. Her main rival is John Key (leader of National). From what I can make of the polls, National seem to be the slight favourites this year, but it seems so close that both parties would have to form coalitions in order to win power.

Who will win? I have no idea. I just hope that the recent fervour over the US Presidential Elections has sparked Kiwis to care about their country and get out and vote too.

Even though I can't vote, I still have my part to play - I have a job as a 'counter' tonight - yes, I get to sit in a chilly school hall on a Saturday evening counting up ballots. But, hey, it's good money, and it makes me feel like I'm doing *something* for democracy. Roll on 2011, when I will be able to vote for the first time!

I'll leave you with this cartoon I found, make of it what you will....

(NZ Herald)

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