Election tactics

Martine Udahemuka
Insights Newsletter
29 September, 2017

New Zealanders are lazy patriots and even worse politicians.

In last week’s election, a bit more than a fifth of us held onto our vote and hoped for the best. And while provisional results show the current government in the lead by double digits, its continued reign rests in the hands of one kingmaker.

As a proud dual citizen, I had the benefit of following two recent elections - watching Rwanda’s gave me a sliver of hope for Aotearoa. 

In a landslide victory, the Rwandan incumbent collected all but 1% of the votes with a 98.5% voter turnout.

While in the space of eight months New Zealand lost a prime minister and two opposition leaders, Rwanda has had the same leader for almost a quarter century. Now, that’s a stable government if you ever saw one.

So assuming the core goal of a politician is to get re-elected, I offer lessons from Rwanda’s August elections.

The first thing New Zealand needs is a constitution: one that can of course be changed at a whim to suit the desires of the incumbent. Instead of serving two-terms of seven years, the African leader can now be re-elected until at least 2034.

But why stop there? The New Zealand Electoral Commission must make the registration process for new candidates impenetrable. Those who make it through must have all their social media posts vetted by the Commission. All contesting parties should be allowed to put up campaign banners wherever they please, so long as it’s not in the same place as the ruling party’s banners – which happen to be everywhere.

Oh, and one must ensure the strongest opposition leader remains behind bars.

The result: A one-man election. While New Zealanders complained about boring debates, Rwandans mostly enjoyed a televised monologue.

But for me the beauty of being a dual citizen is that I get to hide behind the saner state when it suits.

While we, New Zealanders, could have given less airtime to sideshows and given more to the policy issues that truly matter, all I could think of was how lucky I am to be a Kiwi.

In comparison New Zealanders may seem like lazy voters and we could do well with gutsier politicians but we remain lucky living in a liberal democracy.

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