Since 2008 New Zealand has been ruled by the centre-right National Party and its leader John Key has successfully guided the party to three general election victories. In 2017 there shall be another election and the New Zealand Left is uniting in order to overcome the National Party. Based on current polling it looks unlikely that the National Party will lose in 2017 however the move is still the right one and work should begin to carve out an energised and united left-wing movement.
The New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand have signed a memorandum of understanding to support each other’s legislation in order to get substantive left-wing change implemented. They are currently the two largest opposition parties in the country and this announcement is an important step in fight for a left-wing government in New Zealand. It must be said, however, this is not looking likely.
I am aware that we are over a year away from the election but despite being in power for eight years it appears that the New Zealand electorate are not sick of Key’s leadership. The latest poll for the New Zealand-based new organisation Newshub found that the National Party has a national poll rating of 47%, which is nearly 16 points ahead of Labour in second. Because of the voting system in general elections is mixed-member proportional representation, this huge lead doesn’t necessarily mean that the National Party will form the next government, however he likely composition of the next House of Representatives makes it the most likely situation.
In my opinion Labour and the Greens should announce that they will stand for election as a coalition as this will allow for the two parties to redirect resources away from fighting each other. Furthermore it will give this prospective government a greater air of democratic legitimacy and will give the two parties the ability to put out a joint manifesto. By firmly stating that they will stand as a coalition, the polls will look much tighter and the move will generate momentum. For example, the aforementioned poll put Labour on 31.3% and the Greens on 11.1%, but the ‘Coalition’ would be polling at 42.4%.
As well as making a left-wing government look more plausible to the electorate, I believe that such a move would energise the Left and also boost turnout. Parties can only go from opposition to government if they have an army of well organised and enthusiastic foot-soldiers, and if the political entity in question has a high chance of becoming the government, this will spur on these activists. Also, many people chose not to vote in general elections because they feel that they vote won’t matter, however in a race that is much tighter these people may feel that their vote will matter and thus turnout is raised. Personally, I feel that these are good enough reasons to stand as a coalition.
New Zealand has a long way to go until polling day but these very early signs are a positive development. The National Party’s current lead looks insurmountable but by working in collaboration, the Left can overcome this lead and change New Zealand from a haven of neoliberalism into a progressive beacon. 2017 will prove to be an important year for New Zealand, with issues like climate change, TTIP, and international conflict rising in importance in the discourse. Only a left-wing government will be able to guide New Zealand correctly in these areas, and the quickest way to do that would be a Labour-Green coalition.