The ‘Meh’ election?

There seems to be two major things at play around the Western world in elections, interference by hacking, and a growing dissatisfaction of voters.

Attempts to influence elections via social media manipulation and data hacks, allegedly by the Russians may or may not be making a difference but the intent seems clear.

It looks likely that Marine Le Pen will lose the French election but the fact that a candidate like her can come second shows that many voters are wanting something relatively radical to replace what they have now.

The UK election is certain to have some social media skulduggery but we will have to wait and see if hackers succeed in obtaining data to try and at least disrupt proceedings there – however it’s hard to see anything getting in the way of Jeremy Corbyn dragging Labour down to a bad defeat there.

Coming up in September Germany have their elections and there are already rumblings about attempted interference there.

And in New Zealand we have our election in September too.

We have already had an attempt to swing an election here by hacking, when Nicky Hager launched his Dirty Politics book in the lead up to the 2014 election using illegally obtained emails and other communications. It’s unlikely the Russians were involved in that but they may well have learnt something from.

What may not have been learnt from the New Zealand example is that using hacked data to influence an election can backfire, or at least fail to fire the incumbent government.

The second major factor is what appears to be a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo, whether it be the established government (as in Washington) or with international alliances (as with Brexit and the UK).

Voters seem to be attracted to more radical options because they want change from what they currently have. However while disillusionment and dissatisfaction are common the radical changes are in different directions.

Hence the rise of Donald Trump in the US, and the popularity of Bernie Sanders. They appealed to quite different voter groups.

And in the French presidential election the final two choices are a fairly radical right wing-ish Marine Le Pen, versus Emmanuel Macron, who has been a member the Socialist Party (PS) from 2006 to 2009 of minister in a socialist government, and only started his f En Marche! ‘political movement’ a year ago.

In New Zealand it’s sort of the same and also quite different. The left (Labour and Greens) are struggling to get much traction. Instead we have a mix of radical/maverick and a long established politician, Winston Peters. He has been doing the outlandish vagueness tricks that seem to have worked for Trump, as well as having a running battle with the media.

NZ First are polling better than they have for some time in the lead up to our election. Time will whether their support grows or not. Peters is going hard out anti-immigration, and the media are as usual giving him a lot of publicity, but that may or may not flow through to September.

So for a long time New Zealand has already had Peters attacking the media and being rewarded with publicity, plus dog whistling against immigrants. And we have also had an attempted hack interference.

And while some politicians and media are trying to talk up growing divides and discontents I’m not sure that there is a significant aversion to the status quo here that there is elsewhere. National have maintained unprecedented (under MMP) levels of support for an incumbent government.

They are showing signs of wavering, but the main alternative, Labour, have conceded they can’t match one-to-one and have set up an alliance of sorts with the Greens to try to compete. So far, going by the polls, that has not worked very successfully.

Change here may hinge on NZ First, but in the last few elections voters have resisted giving Peters a say in Government, or more accurately, sufficient voters have kept supporting the status quo.

While New Zealand has major housing issues and also a growing income divide and social issues of concern, our economy is generally doing very well. While we have always had “bloody Government” discord it is nothing like the ‘drain the Swamp’ level of Washington discontent.

While immigration numbers are being debated we don’t have the border problems and numbers of illegal immigrants that cause growing concern in the US and Europe. Peters is trying to scapegoat immigrants, and Labour has dabbled at that as well, but it’s hard to know whether that will appeal to prompt many voters to want to change the government. It had a negative effect for Labour.

One of the media’s biggest concerns seems to over who of Bill English and Andrew Little is the most boring. So they look for headlines elsewhere, hence the promotion of Peters and Jacinda Ardern, and trying to push new faces like Chlöe Swarbrick.

Kim Dotcom dominated a lot of coverage (and election spending) last election, as did the quirky Colin Craig, but the Internet Party in particular failed to attract voters.

Despite some threats Dotcom is largely out of the picture so far this year, Craig is too busy in court, and the one success of Dirty Politics was to have rendered Whale Oil down to rancid.

Despite some politicians and political activists trying to talk down the country and talk up a need for revolution, and despite some media searching for sensation, there seems to be no significant public discontent with our current government. It’s more like ‘meh’.

We don’t really have the levels or depths of discontent that are evident elsewhere.

There have been claims that Wikileaks (or the Russians or both?) have a data dump ready to go for New Zealand.

But if our election campaign is hit by a Dotcom promoted dump of hacked material is that going swing things? Or will the people vote ‘meh’.

Despite the best efforts of some media to sensationalise things – the overplaying of the Pike River videos by Newshub a recent example – and despite Dotcom or Hager or the Russians or the Aussies or whoever dumping on New Zealand this could turn out to be the ‘Meh’ election.

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7 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  May 7, 2017

    drum roll…melodrama….’We have already had an attempt to swing an election here by hacking, when Nicky Hager launched his Dirty Politics book in the lead up to the 2014 election using illegally obtained emails and other communications. It’s unlikely the Russians were involved in that but they may well have learnt something from.’
    Not mentioning Keys black ops team,Ede,Slater and co…..the real…dirt.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  May 7, 2017

      The public saw the ‘real dirt’ by giving Labour and the Greens a massive beating at the 2014 election – the conspiracy writings of a far-left writer trying to influence an election with his own (dubious) take on some stolen emails from a fantasist who thought he was politically relevant.

      Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  May 7, 2017

    describing the ultimate…surrender monkey himself…’some stolen emails from a fantasist who thought he was politically relevant.’

    Reply
  3. The ‘Meh’ election?

    No, it’ll be a ME, ME, ME election just like every other …

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  May 7, 2017

      I thought you were a fan of identity politics, PZ?

      Reply
      • You fashioned yourself a fantasy along those lines Alan, as I recall.

        “Identity politics”, although it hasn’t reared its ugly reactionary head in your comments of late, for a while seemed to take the place of “Loony Lefty” as your default derision of the month …

        It’s meaningless drivel by the way …. ALL politics is identity politics …

        Reply
  1. The ‘Meh’ election? – NZ Conservative Coalition

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