Election date – what’s best for the people?

National and David Seymour had already suggested the election should be delayed due to the Covid level 3 lockdown in Auckland.

Then yesterday Winston Peters went public with a letter he has sent to the Prime Minister asking for a delay in the election:

Newsroom: Peters calls for election delay over Covid-19 outbreak

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has joined calls for a delay to the September 19 election following the country’s new Covid-19 outbreak, claiming there is “no ability to conduct a free and fair election” in the current environment.

However, Peters has shied away from disclosing whether his party would back a vote of no confidence against the Government, should Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern forge ahead with the original date.

Ardern is set to reveal her own views on the election date and dissolution of Parliament at a press conference on Monday morning. However, her coalition partner and Deputy Prime Minister chose to pre-empt the announcement on Sunday afternoon, in what appears an attempt to force Ardern’s – or even the Governor-General’s – hand. 

Justifying an election delay, Peters said there would be only six days for parties to campaign if Auckland moved out of Level 3 and the rest of the country out of Level 2 on August 26, with overseas voting beginning on September 2 and advance voting five days later.

“There is now no ability to conduct a free and fair election if the Prime Minister decides to hold the General Election on September 19,” Peters said.

He also cited concerns about the preparedness of the Electoral Commission and NZ Post to deal with “an unprecedented deluge of special votes” in a timely fashion, noting the significant increase in voting ahead of Election Day in recent years. 

“Voters are sovereign and when and what day they vote must be their choice, not the Government’s.

“Any proposed staggering of their vote in the election across several weeks is a weakening of and serious interference in our democracy,” Peters claimed.

Speaking to media, the New Zealand First leader repeatedly refused to state whether his party would join National and ACT in a vote of no confidence in the Government should Ardern decline to change the election date – an extreme option available to him should he choose it.

“I’m here to alert the people of this country, dare I say it my friends in the media, to the realities of what we’re facing right now, and I think people are entitled to know all the permutations and ramifications of political behaviour.”

Peters released a letter he sent to Ardern on August 14 to convey New Zealand First’s concerns, saying he had since spoken to her about the issue.

“New Zealand First believes we risk undermining the legitimacy of the election result, creating an awful precedent which could be abused by the Prime Minister’s successors.

 “People will be driven to the conclusion, in the absence of any empirical evidence to the contrary, that the election date choice is being forced from a minority position to achieve a certain outcome.”

Peters said the party was releasing its letter to Ardern “for the sake of transparency, and because we believe the Governor-General of New Zealand needs to know that the majority in the House of Representatives favours an election delay.”

While I don’t really care about what politicians and parties might prefer, especially those who are doing poorly in polls like NZ First and National.

What is important is what is best for the people in a democracy. And wit a lockdown in Auckland running through the key part of the election campaign is a problem.

Also important is what the priorities of the Government parties are, particularly Labour. They have a lot to do right now dealing with the Covid outbreak in Auckland and shouldn’t be distracted by an election campaign.

So I think a delay in the election looks inevitable. Jacinda Ardern will make an announcement on this this morning.

I do wonder whether Peters is just grandstanding a bit here again. If Ardern announces a delay he will perhaps claim to have influenced the decision, but being deputy Prime Minister he can talk to Ardern any time he likes about things.

But regardless of Peters posturing Ardern needs to make a decision based on what’s best for the Government, for our democracy, and especially for the people.

Of course a new delayed election date may also have problems if the current outbreak lasts for a few weeks, or if we have another outbreak. So be it, whatever happens in the future will just have to be dealt with.

One problem with a delayed election is we will effectively have a drawn out campaign, that’s probably not what most non-political people would prefer but most people are adept at ignoring most politics most of the time.

Ardern will make her announcement at 10 am this morning.


More from Newsroom: Parliament a possum in the headlights as Ardern mulls election date

Wellington lawyer Graeme Edgeler has ably outlined the possible ramifications on Twitter: should it become clear Parliament had indeed lost confidence in the Government, Reddy could refuse to dissolve Parliament as is currently scheduled to take place Monday.

The House could then sit for the Government to move a high-stakes motion of confidence: if that passed, Parliament would dissolve, but if it failed the Governor-General could allow a period to see if there was confidence in either Ardern or another MP to form a government.

If the parties could come to agreement, then Prime Minister Judith Collins (or, dare we say it, Prime Minister Peters) could command the majority of the House for just long enough to schedule a new election date. 

If that was not possible, then it would be for Reddy to use the reserve powers of the Governor-General and set an election date, possibly with the input of the Chief Electoral Officer.

It is worth noting that the process for resolving such a constitutional conundrum is contested, with no clear instruction manual.

University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis believes it would take a majority of the House throwing its active support behind a new leader, rather than simply withdrawing its support in Ardern, for the Governor-General to reverse course on the dissolution of Parliament and election date.

With Peters publicly confirming Ardern still has the confidence of New Zealand First, Reddy could accept the Prime Minister’s request to dissolve Parliament on the grounds she enjoyed its confidence at the time the decision was made, even if that was to change afterwards.

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21 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  17th August 2020

    Agree Pete.
    Ardern certainly has a seemingly impossible job to retain the confidence of the electorate.
    We were told ad nauseum from the bully pulpit 5 months ago that the only truth came from Ardern and Bloomfield.
    Wrong !
    Everything they told us has turned out to be a blatant lie of willfully deceptive.
    Flu-jab availability = fail.
    Testing kit availability = fail.
    PPE availability = fail.
    Community testing = fail.
    Gold standard border = fail.
    Unconcerned are the plethora of highly paid civil servants who have zero concerns regarding the hard working SME proprietors facing financial destruction.
    Sure, another wage hand – out is on the way but it only delays the inevitable.
    We must learn to live with this virus, not bankrupt the country to “ eliminate it” as that is totally impossible.
    We need some hard headed decision makers running our country.
    No more of the pixie dust and “ be kind “ messaging which appeals to the vacuous.
    Labour has totally failed us.
    We all deserve better.

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  17th August 2020

      Ardern does have an impossible job to retain the confidence of the electorate. If they decide the election goes ahead on the due date some while go spare. If she defers it people will go spare.

      So what does she do? It is impossible to please all camps so she should set out to piss off all camps – put it back one week.

      Your line “We need some hard headed decision makers running our country'” is utter garbage.

      It is utter garbage because what you most likely mean is “We need hard headed decision makers running our country who make decisions I agree with.”

      If Ardern decides the election goes ahead on the original date, i.e. makes a hard headed decision, I take it you’ll be first on here to congratulate her for having made a hard call.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  17th August 2020

      ‘Labour has totally failed us.
      We all deserve better.’

      Too funny…..try standup John.

      Reply
      • John J Harrison

         /  17th August 2020

        Blazer, so you accept the lies we have been told by our PM that affect both our health and our sinking economy?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  17th August 2020

          No I don’t ,at all.

          Reply
        • Fight4nz

           /  17th August 2020

          JJH, you accept the lies from Judith Collins when she denies the spreading of conspiracy theories?

          Reply
          • John J Harrison

             /  17th August 2020

            Fight4nz, I assume you are referring to Winston Peters who doubled down on his original assertion only yesterday.
            He is the Deputy PM so I assume he knows what he is talking about .
            Sarc !

            Reply
    • Alan Foster

       /  17th August 2020

      ‘Labour has totally failed us.”
      Deaths per Million to date
      UK 609
      Sweden 572
      USA 522
      France 466
      Canada 439
      Norway 48
      Australia 16
      NZ 4
      Cambodia 0
      Everyone will agree with you – yes, a total failure (think Tui Ad)

      Reply
      • John J Harrison

         /  17th August 2020

        Alan, you appear to have missed out Taiwan and Thailand – any particular reason for that ?
        Do you accept, as Blazer does that our PM should be allowed to lie about our health and economy ?

        Reply
        • Alan Foster

           /  17th August 2020

          Taiwan 0.3
          Thailand 0.8
          Laos 0
          How’s that?
          Several other countries report 0 also (if you can believe them)
          Is our PM lying or being fed the incorrect information?
          I’m not saying that the Govt is perfect but they’re doing a great job compared to the vast majority of the world.

          Reply
        • duperez

           /  17th August 2020

          The PM has no less right to lie about anything than any other political leader.

          Reply
  2. David

     /  17th August 2020

    Parliament should be sitting so some scrutiny of the governments actions can happen, that we havent tested people we were and the minister was told were being tested is an example. I would like to know why cabin crew are not being tested and truck drivers are and the logic for that call.
    So if the election is to be delayed then parliament must sit because at the moment if the opposition ask any questions then the political journalists pile on as they somehow have been persuaded that they are a crucial part of the team of 5 million and spokespeople for the government.
    Lets just hold the election in November or next year so Ardern and Hipkins can concentrate on clearing up after yet another failure from St Bloomfield.

    Reply
    • John J Harrison

       /  17th August 2020

      David, not only Bloomfield.
      What about Woods, ex Police Commissioner Bush and the Air Commadore, all abject failures.
      We required them to do one job, secure the border.
      They have collectively failed in spectacular fashion.
      Thinking that with more time to the next election will allow them to fix their many failings is absolutely delusional.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  17th August 2020

        Are the people you mention Labour supporters?

        Reply
      • Duker

         /  17th August 2020

        The DNA family the virus here comes from hasnt been found to match anyone who arrived here with the virus. So its an unknown method of transmission.

        You could say the ‘balance of probabilities’ evidence points to it coming from outside NZ, but the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ evidence not yet has a direct link to a person who arrived here with the virus.
        Werent you one of the many ‘of certain political type’ who were advocating for lockdowns ending earlier and travel bubbles opening up earlier….but now you want a hermetically sealed border ?

        Reply
      • duperez

         /  17th August 2020

        Your statements that Woods, ex Police Commissioner Bush and the Air Commodore are/were abject failures who failed in spectacular fashion is more emotional tosh.

        Reply
  3. Duker

     /  17th August 2020

    “should it become clear Parliament had indeed lost confidence in the Government, Reddy could refuse to dissolve Parliament as is currently scheduled to take place Monday”

    The trouble for Edgelers arguement is that the PM doesnt require approval of parliament to advise the GG to dissolve parliament – especially in the circumstances of an election date just weeks away.
    Its always been soley the PMs call on the date. I dont know the reasons why since after 1999 its only been one November election ( 2008) that didnt have a major event the month before ( 2011 Rugby World Cup was in Oct and election was 4-5 weeks later in Nov)

    My only thought that was due the increased commercialisation of Xmas that Nov has people thinking of the next Month. Certainly it seems TV advertising rates would be higher in Nov as the major retailers have the Xmas promotions focussed after labour day in last week of Oct.
    Also with MMP it a End of Sept date allows almost 3 months before Xmas for setting up a new government ( if needed) and for Parliament to sit for about a month before adjourning till Feb.

    Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th August 2020

    Moved it minimally to Oct 17. We’ll hear more about this, likely in court.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  17th August 2020

      Not so . Courts dont interfere with processes of parliament. There is no judicial review for what is totally the PMs choice in an election year.

      Reply
  5. whalerider3000

     /  17th August 2020

    Sensible, measured decision.

    Reply

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