Asia Minute: New Zealand’s Political World Turned Upside Down

Sep 4, 2017

Bowen House Beehive Parliament, New Zealand
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Unexpected election results have become increasingly common over the past year or so. From the British decision to leave the European Union to upset presidential results in the United States and France, it’s been a time of political reversals. And the next one may be coming in New Zealand. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Here’s an only slightly over-simplified crash course on New Zealand politics.

The National Party is center-right, and has been in power since 2008. In second place is the center-left Labor Party. And a handful of smaller parties round out the rest of the parliamentary seats.

Polls in early August showed the center-right National Party with the support of 47 percent of voters, and the center-left Labor at 24 percent.

Then Labor switched leaders, and New Zealand’s political world veered left.

37-year old Jacinda Ardern took over the Labor Party on August 1st, and took over the polls shortly thereafter, sending Labor’s support rocketing nearly twenty percentage points in a matter of weeks.

The latest poll late last week shows Labor now leads the National Party – the first time that’s happened in more than a decade.

Local media call it “Jacindamania,” but it’s not just about youth.

There’s housing: prices up by more than a third in the past three years in New Zealand—and home ownership in the country is now at its lowest level since 1951.

Other points of political contention range from immigration to student debt.

Election Day is September 23rd.