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Asian Candidates Demonstrated Fundraising Prowess In 2023 Election

National's Siva Kilari (above left) and Mahesh Muralidhar were the best-performing Asian candidates in terms of attracting donations for the 2023 election. Photo: SUPPLIED

Electoral candidates of Asian descent from parties of all political stripes demonstrated their fundraising prowess in the 2023 election, according to figures released by the Electoral Commission last month.

The commission mandates electoral candidates to declare donations of more than $1,500 and overseas donations exceeding $50.



Aside from restrictions placed on overseas donations and contributions made by anonymous donors, there is no limit to the total amount of donations a candidate can receive.

The commission also limited advertising expenses to $32,600, including GST, for the regulated period between 14 July and 13 October last year. Other campaign costs - such as travel, venue hire and office space - do not need to be declared in a candidate's expense return.

If an electorate candidate receives donations exceeding what they spend on their election campaign, the remainder can be redirected to the party's war chest or returned to donors.

An unprecedented 27 candidates of Asian descent competed for a seat in Parliament at the 2023 election, all but one - Nancy Lu - fighting for an electoral position.

What follows is a breakdown of the donations they attracted:


Siva Kilari and Mahesh Muralidhar were easily the best-performing Indian-origin candidates in the National Party, standing in the Manurewa and Auckland Central electorates, respectively.

Kilari raked in donations totalling $110,483, spending $21,015 of this amount.

Muralidhar brought in $109,496, spending $30,056 in his campaign as he tried to win the seat back for National from Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick.

Both campaigns failed and neither candidate was able to get into Parliament via the party list.

Meanwhile, Chinese-origin MP Carlos Cheung collected $42,099, spending $31,072 to win the Labour stronghold of Mt Roskill.

Indian-origin candidate Ankit Bansal brought in $28,990, spending $18,345 in a losing battle for the Palmerston North electorate.

A large number of donations for Muralidhar ($104,496) and Bansal ($25,060) came from the National Party, while the party stumped up 100 percent of Cheung's contributions.

By comparison, no National Party donations were used to fund Kilari's campaign, with many contributions coming from South Auckland-based companies and individuals.

Korean-origin minister Melissa Lee, National's highest-ranking candidate of Asian heritage at the election, received donations worth $25,662 - 100 percent from the party. Lee spent $24,938 of this amount on her campaign.

Navtej Singh Randhawa, who stood for the Panmure-Ōtāhuhu electorate, also received 100 percent of his donations from the party. Randhawa spent $9,356 of the $9,644 worth of donations he brought in.

Paulo Garcia, who became the first-ever candidate of Filipino descent to win an electorate seat (New Lynn), received almost half his donations, or $13,398, from the party. He spent $19,505 of the $26,198 worth of donations that were collected.

Karunā Muthu, who stood for the Rongotai electorate, received a little less than half his donations, or $10,767, from the party. His election expenses totalled $26,356 - far more than the $18,530 worth of donations he attracted.


Labour's Naisi Chen, who was the only MP of Chinese origin in the previous administration, was unable to attract a single donation last year. However, she did end up spending $1,656 on her campaign in the East Coast Bays electorate.

Zulfiqar Butt, an electorate candidate for Rangitikei who was ranked a lowly 68 on Labour's party list, received $25,880 in donations for his campaign. Fifteen thousand dollars came from the party, while the remainder was donated by a single individual, with Butt spending $12,101 on the campaign.

By comparison, high-ranking MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan attracted just $13,500. While the party contributed $4,000 and the E tu union $2,000, Former Onehunga Electorate Trust contributed the lion's share, or $7,500, to the former minister's campaign.

Meanwhile, Kharag Singh from Botany and sitting MP Vanushi Walters from Upper Harbour spent more than what they received as donations ($2,000 each). Singh spent $5,618 on his campaign, while Sri Lankan-origin Walters spent $6,492.

Singh's donation came from one South Auckland business, while Labour's contribution comprised 100 percent of Walters' total.

Chen and Walters lost their place in Parliament and weren't able to make it back into the Beehive on their party's list either.


The ACT Party had seven electorate candidates of Asian origin in the 2023 election.

Parmjeet Parmar from Pakuranga (now a list MP), Himanshu Parmar from Hamilton East, Rahul Chopra from Mt Roskill, Pothen Joseph from Mangere and Ankita Lynn from Wigram are of Indian descent.

Christine Young from Tauranga and Rae Ah Chee from Takanini are of Chinese heritage.

All seven candidates filed returns stating they received zero donations and spent nothing on their election campaigns.


Lawrence Xu-Nan, the Green Party's likely first-ever MP of Chinese origin who stood in the Epsom electorate, collected $2,317 in donations from a hospitality company.

The Greens' other Asian origin electorate candidates - Lan Pham (now a list MP) from Banks Peninsula, Golriz Ghahraman (now a former MP) from Kelston, Francisco Hernandez from Dunedin, Sapna Samant from Maungakiekie and Neelu Jennings from Hutt South - have declared zero donations.

While Xu-Nan and Samant's campaign spending stood at just $65, Pham spent the most - $2,201.

Hernandez also ended up spending $1,271, according to his returns, with most of it going to an advertisement placed in a local newspaper ($916).

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