A quick overview of New Zealand’s political landscape in early 2017 pops up a question in mind if left versus left and right versus right is going to be the new theme of politics this year.
Although it’s too early, and naive to generalise about the political landscape for the whole year, yet some signs, howsoever trivial, do suggest likewise.
Prime Minister Bill English chose to start New Year with what Stuff’s political reporter Jo Moir describes as “pulled the pin, thrown a grenade and skipped the country before the blast has even taken effect.”
The context of this comment is Mr English’s decision to skip Waitangi Day dawn service celebrations on February 5 and 6.
Subsequently, speaking on behalf of many New Zealanders, Prime Minister made a divisive statement that a lot of New Zealanders “cringe” at the protests that unfold on the National Day just before catching the plane and leaving for Europe on his first official foreign trip as the new Prime Minister.
Describing the protests accompanying national day celebrations as “cringing” for some fellow New Zealanders has naturally created a mixed response.
Apparently, it is clear that among other effects such as initiating an intellectual debate, one important consequence is the scramble for votes that can be safely termed as votes on the ‘right’ of the political divide.
There are myriad of interpretations of this move from Mr English early in the year.
While some see it as his attempt to break away from the shadows of former Prime Minister John Key, under whom he has mainly served in the last decade, and cast a new image of a bold leader of the National Party.
Others see it as a calculated move to consolidate what can be safely termed as votes on the ‘right’ in this election year, thus creating some concerns among the players that typically strive for those votes.
So far the responses from those who compete for the votes on the ‘right’ can best be described as muted.
Maori Party, the coalition partner in the government, has largely evaded by saying that such statement emanates from a “lack of understanding” about the day.
New Zealand First has completely remained muted in their response to Mr English’s latest move.
Either way, there seems to be some attempt to churn votes on the right.
This is very similar to another political arena, although on a smaller scale at the impending Mt-Albert by-election, where National’s exit leaves Labour Party competing against Green Party and Mana Party who largely competes for the similar votes believed to be on the ‘left’ of the political divide.
This may be a microscopic observation of ‘left versus left and right versus right’ on the national political landscape, but there might be some ingenuity and excitement in New Zealand politics if this happens.
At least after John Key’s successive electoral triumphs in last three elections, which have made elections bit monotonous, if not uninteresting altogether.