Friday, November 25, 2011

What's At Stake in the New Zealand Election

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'd prefer to see some kind of left-liberal governmment in New Zealand. In an ideal world, it would:

1) Pursue energy, transport, and environmental policies that not only make New Zealand a more pleasant place to live in, but also help prepare for the inexorable increase in the price of oil over the coming years

2) Make a serious and constant commitment to reducing inequalities, as far as necessary through taxation and social services, but as much as possible through employment and wages

3) Wrestle with how best to manage New Zealand's place in the international economy, exploring different options but maintaining 2) as a constant point of reference

4) Explain its policies in a way that respects the public's intelligence. Be prepared to change its mind and admit it was wrong. Respect the various democratic processes and make more information publicly available.*

But that's not going to happen. Instead, tomorrow's elections offer only best and worst-case scenarios among a generally unappetising range of possible outcomes.

Best case scenario

National fails to win an outright majority. ACT and United Future lose their respective electorate seats. National forms a minority government and is forced to rely on the Maori Party plus perhaps some kind of abstension from the Greens in return for a few policy wins. Individual items of legislation require support from one or more of the other parties. Any asset sales are greatly scaled down and/or delayed. Welfare policy gets a little more emphasis on Whanau Ora and a little less on bashing beneficiaries..

Worst case scenario**

National wins an outright majority, either alone or in tandem with ACT. Midway through the term they take a more ideological turn, perhaps associated with John Key stepping down, with cover provided by a second global recession triggered by chaos in Europe There are deeper and more rapid cuts in, or privatisation of, public services, with little mercy for anything that can be portrayed as involving minority interests or bureaucrats. Various labour and environmental protections are discarded as "unaffordable". Scapegoating of the marginalised intensifies.

I guess by aroound 9:00 pm tomorrow night we should have an idea which way it's likely to go.

* And it should give everyone a pony.

** In the event of a global meltdown, the best case scenario could easily turn into the worst case scenario, especially if the Government calls a snap election, arguing that being forced to relie on minor parties prevents it from "taking the necessary actions".

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