Monday, September 25, 2017

American thoughts on the New Zealand election

Disclaimer: Completely un-professional and biased views of New Zealand politics from an Outsider.

As an American, it's hard not to become disheartened by politics, especially in today's Trump era.

But observing New Zealand's 2017 general election for Prime Minister was a breath of fresh air and made me appreciate, even more so, the benefits of living on an island with only 4.6 million people where an ego-maniac isn't running the country.

I won't bore you with an overview of New Zealand politics (because I'm no expert and you can google it yourself) so here are the highlights of my observations:

1. Women in NZ Politics is a no-brainer

Hillary Clinton as America's first female presidential candidate was empowering for women all over the States... but in New Zealand, I don't think the media really pushed the fact that a woman (Jacinda Arden) was a main contender for Prime Minister - that's awesome! #Jacindamania hit New Zealand but it was NOT because she is lady. New Zealand had two other women in the past to lead their country (Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark)

2. We can think differently and still be friends!

A post shared by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

As we drew closer to election day, the political chats at home and around the water cooler became more involved (a bit)... what I found surprising was that most Kiwis were NOT overly-opinionated. Granted, American politics is quite polarising due to the extreme nature of some of our leaders, but in New Zealand, they are more middle-of-the-road folk.

In my social circle, my closest friends lean towards numerous parties and it's ok! Quite a few romantic couples voted completely differently... I appreciate that believing in the agenda of one party doesn't have to offend or degrade another - unlike how many Americans feel about Republican or Democratic affiliations... did I block many Trump-supporting Facebook "friends?" Maybe. But, in New Zealand, I didn't have to consider it.

3. New Zealanders are more active!

Maybe because America's 2016 election result was so shocking and New Zealanders didn't want a similar situation, or maybe because Trump is in a war of words with North Korea and New Zealand could be, literally, in the line of fire... but this year, over 90% of eligible voters were enrolled to vote and more New Zealanders than ever voted early at the polls.

4. Minority Parties get a say!

Sure, this is a debatable... and there was discussion about a "wasted vote" but in New Zealand, if you have at least 5% of the votes, you get a seat at the table and can collaborate with other parties to make policies. As a result, a 23 year old lady is the youngest MP in 42 years to sit in Parliament representing the Greens Party - cult favorite for it's environmentalist and pro-Cannabis agenda.

5. UPDATE: So Bill English is NOT the PM:

Update: Bill English was the PM, then he wasn't the PM. With votes trickling in a few days later, Labour managed to gain two more seats.Labour nor National could get to 50% of the votes to become the clear leader... the respective parties needed to form a coalition with NZ First (Winston Peters) and Greens Party.

As a result, after a few weeks of negotiation, the new government is led by JACINDA ARDEN with the help of Winny and the Greens!

When the government reaches a stale mate, it's amazing that it's part of the process to collaborate and compromise to reach a resolution that feels like a win.

Initial thoughts:
From what I gather, he's quite conservative - these days, I may becoming a bit more aligned with conservative values as a home-owning DINK (double-income, no kids). I love that he helped to boot NZ's favorite villain, Winston Peters, from the National club over 25 years ago. But mostly, I like the sounds of his wife, Mary English, a beautiful Italian/Samoan doctor who has managed to keep her and her 6 children's lives quite private. When I relate that to the US, we all know the power of a first lady - #MichelleObamaForever.

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