Our friends across the Tasman are heading to the polls today to who they want in charge and what kind of country they want to be. Incumbent PM Jacinda Ardern, leader of the Labour Party, is more than likely to return to power once the votes are tallied. Polls leading up to today have been consistently placing her in the 50% preference range, well out in front of her competitor, Judith Collins, leader of the National’s, by at least 15%.
If the Labour Party do as well as expected then they could be looking at governing unassisted as the majority party – fairly unusual for a county whose electoral system is designed to produce coalition governments.
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Today Jacinda was in Hamilton, meeting with supporters, businesses and their workers to talk about our rebuild plan that's in action. The trip also included a quick visit to The Base, where locals got the opportunity to say hi (although it was hard spotting her in the crowd!). Just five days left to go until the election, and we can't afford to slow down now – so let's stick together, and let's keep moving.
Kiwis are not only voting for the leader of the country however but are also being asked to decide whether or not they want to endorse the legalisation of cannabis and the right to die. The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill is looking uncertain in its support from the public, as polls suggest a 50/50 split between voters. The right to assisted dying is polling much better at around 60% and looks far more likely to pass.
If the cannabis legislation receives support, the next government will be compelled to pass the proposed bill which would allow Kiwi’s to cultivate, own, use, and sell cannabis. It could even lead to the creation of Amsterdam-style coffee-shops. Each person would be allowed to purchase up to 14gs of dried flower per day and grow two plants in their home for personal use.
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"Hemp's dark ages are nearly over, but there is still much work to be done. New Zealand's Cannabis referendum awaits us in October 2020, the result of which will have far reaching implications for the future of hemp in New Zealand, and the world." Brad Lake – Co-Founder, Koaka. The pandemic of obesity, mental health and other chronic diseases in our country can be met with natural remedies from this plant which we will only fully realise once the government eases restrictions. More change must come for the full realisation of hemp’s potential to be met – link in bio to Brad's full blog.
Over this side, the ACT are voting today to decide their state government and cannabis is a hot topic too. Since January, ACT residents have been able to grow up to two plants and possess up to 50gs of dried cannabis. The Green Party have been campaigning to broaden access to the drug while the Liberal Party, who originally vowed to revoke the law if they came to power, have said they now have bigger issues to focus on and changes to the legislation would not be a top priority.
The latest polling in NZ suggests Labour are on track to just secure the 61 seats needed to form a majority government. Coalition partners, the Green Party, are polling at 6% meaning they would secure eight seats. The Nationals are looking at 32% of the vote while the libertarian ACT Party are at about 8%. Previous kingmakers the New Zealand First Party are hovering at around 2% meaning they would struggle to have much of an impact in parliament this time around.
The election was pushed back by a month to deal with a COVID outbreak back in August that saw Auckland go back into lockdown. The elongated election run-up has caused some commentators to question whether Kiwis were suffering from election fatigue in a season of endless debates and campaign rallies.
While the government did lose some of its shine for the resurgence of the coronavirus in August, much of the country has been widely supportive of the way New Zealand has handled the pandemic. The country is frequently touted as world-leading for their seeming elimination of the virus. Just last week they hosted the Bledisloe cup in a packed-out 31,000 capacity stadium without masks or social distancing, a feat that stunned the world.
Labour has run a campaign centred on the star-power of Jacinda Ardern. She is frequently cited as the most liked world leader and New Zealand media is often awash with stories of her being mobbed at appearances. Her staff have even complained that it is hard to keep her on time for things as she is so frequently stopped by supporters.
In many ways she is a balm to the bullying, brutish politics we have all been forced to become accustomed to in the past few years with the rise of populists like Trump, Johnson, and Morrison. Ardern, by contrast, says she entered politics to help alleviate child poverty and made headlines around the world when she read the classic Kiwi children’s book Hairy McLairy from Donaldson’s Dairy on TV.
Arderns’s first term has not been without its challenges however. After entering office at the age of just 37 she has dealt with a volcanic eruption on Whakaari Island that killed 5 New Zealand citizens (and 24 Aussies) and a domestic terrorist attack in a Christchurch mosque. That’s not even to mention the Coronavirus pandemic and the fact that she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.
Voting will end at 7 pm tonight and we are likely to have some indication of the results immediately. Referendum results will be counted tomorrow and the preliminary results will be announced on the 30th, though we may have some indication before then.