Friday, September 22, 2017
The election campaigning is in its final countdown, and the verdict 2017 would be out soon thus bringing down the curtain on an almost month-long official campaigning for the general elections.
A month long!
Some people might exclaim with a sense of fatigue only outclassed by politicians themselves, and rightly though, as they have so much at stake in this election.
Prime Minister Bill English could be the first Prime Minister appointed mid-term after Peter Fraser in 1943 to successfully defend elections. Jacinda Ardern could be New Zealand's own Justin Trudeau by becoming youngest Prime Minister of the country. Winston Peters could possibly be at the wee end of his long and sturdy political career and desperate to be in the government. Alternatively, it could see the Greens in the government effectively, for the first time, after gaining entry into parliament in 1999.
Clearly, stakes were very high in this election, and the way campaign has unfolded in the last one month or so clearly justifies those high stakes.
This is why almost everyone agrees that this election is the most keenly contested election in the recent public memory.
For many, this campaign has been running since eternity.
Although official campaigning for this election had begun on August 23, when on writ day, the Governor-General issued a formal direction to the Electoral Commission to hold the election. A day after the 51st Parliament was dissolved and allowing parliamentarians to head towards campaigning.
However, for all practical purposes, the election campaign was well started from August 1, exactly eight weeks before the Election Day when Labour Party had to change their leader after a series of low polls.
A beleaguered Andrew Little had given way to the princess of hearts Jacinda Ardern.
Since then this campaign has exhilarated and enraptured almost everyone.
The intensity, the relentlessness and the stubbornness in the campaign have been unsurprising.
It is unsurprising because this is exactly what you expect from a Party that has been out of power for the last three consecutive terms and a Party, which is so resolutely trying to win a historic fourth successive term in the government.
Two months ago, almost no one would have anticipated such an intense contest ahead with National sailing comfortably in an auto mode by polling in the high 40s, whereas Labour-led centre-left coalition was huffing and puffing their way to combined high thirties only.
Clearly then the election was boring for many. However, it never unfolded in that way.
This campaign will be remembered for two things, first the runaway success of Jacinda Ardern in winning hearts and interests of many disinterested voters through her compassion on issues of child poverty, homelessness, mental health and housing affordability.
Second the resolute ability of Bill English in clawing back in voter's mind by blurring to some extent, if not confusing altogether, Ms Ardern's compassion driven appeal consequently keeping this election still a keenly contested one.
If Ms Ardern's youthfulness, charisma, and compassion are a currency for votes in the election, then Mr English's resoluteness in not surrendering and taking the fight in opponent's camp is also an admirable asset for the Prime Minister position.
The Labour Party had almost similar policies and approached towards some compelling issues faced by New Zealanders in this election before Ms Ardern's leadership; however, it never translated into poll numbers as high as the 40s. Surely, personality had played an important role in changing fortunes of the Party.
Similarly, Bill English's personality has grown by leaps and bound in this election campaign to add to the bank of his Party's claimed success in policies and managing country's economy.
The way Mr English committed (or was cornered) to the targets of removing child poverty by 100,000 during live leaders debate, or the way he thundered during a similar debate that Labour Party's comment against farmers was an insult to farmers who are already making significant contribution towards fight against climate change were signs of an evolving personality.
Nothing mentioned above will have any meaning for the election night when voters will be casting their votes.
The results could go either way with most of the experts predicting that National Party could be the biggest Party in parliament by a whisker and Labour could form a coalition government with a very slender margin with support from Winston Peters.
The Indian Weekender is stopping short of making any such prediction.
Instead, it is taking a huge satisfaction from the fact that both these major parties had worked hard to woo the Kiwi-Indian voters. The community itself is appearing to have put a premium on its votes and had been demanding ever more from their respective political representatives - a sign of growing political maturity of the community.
More than anything else, this election campaign is different from many others in recent memories for the way Kiwi-Indian voters have been solicited by all major parties.