New Zealanders will go to the polls on Saturday 14 October 2023 in a general election that will likely see Prime Minister Chris Hipkins continue his Labor Party government for another three years, or switch to the conservative camp led by Christopher Luxon.
The economic crisis and cost of living dominate the election campaign nine months after former prime minister Jacinda Ardern suddenly resigned.
Labor Party leader Hipkins, 45, and National Party leader Luxon, 53, face off to form the country’s 54th parliament.
Doors to polling stations opened at 9am, even though more than one million New Zealand voters had already cast their ballots.
Restrictions are in place on what the news media can report about the election until polls close at 7 p.m. Saturday. After that, the General Election Commission is expected to start releasing interim results.
The special ballot, including ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those voting outside their home constituencies, will not be released until November 3.
Final polls showed the main opposition center-right National Party, led by Luxon, with a narrow lead over Ardern’s successor, Hipkins. But there appears to be increasing support for the centre-left Labor Party ahead of the vote, according to Radio NZ.
New Zealand switched to a mixed-member proportional system in 1996. In the 2023 election, a party or coalition needs 61 of Parliament’s 120 seats – usually around 48 percent of the vote – to form a government. There will be a by-election in November that will add additional seats.
This means that smaller parties often play an influential role in determining which major party will govern.
The election took place on the same day as Australia’s Voice referendum to recognize Indigenous Australians in the constitution and create a permanent body that would allow them to speak directly to the government.
In New Zealand, no party is expected to win enough seats to form a government outright, meaning the nationalist NZ First party and its leader Winston Peters could potentially become kingmakers in a coalition government.
Coalitions are commonplace in New Zealand’s mix member proportional system, which introduce in 1996.
The only party to win a majority of votes and govern alone in the current political system was Labor in 2020, when Ardern won a second term in office by a landslide thanks to her success in handling the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
However, Ardern announced her surprise resignation in January. He said he no longer had enough fuel to run in the election, and handed control of his party to Hipkins.
A progressive global icon, Ardern’s time in power has been define by multiple crises, including the terrorist attack in Christchurch. A deadly volcanic explosion and a global pandemic.
Abroad, he became known for being a leader who was not afraid to show empathy and compassion at a time when populist demagogues were gaining prominence in many other western democracies.
But in his country, his popularity has declined amid rising living costs, housing shortages and economic worries. And he faced violent anti-lockdown protests in the capital Wellington, with threats made against him.
Hipkins inherited these problems that were exacerbate by a sluggish economy
a historically high inflation rate of 6 percent and a financial account deficit that worried rating agencies.
Sophia Ha, who is from Auckland but has lived in Sydney for the past five years, is a staunch Ardern supporter but is now unsure who she will vote for.
“She an incredible representation for young women in politics,” Ha told CNN. “I think he leaves a big void that’s hard to fill, but I think New Zealand, economically, really needs help.”
Alex Wareham, a bartender from Auckland
said he would like to see the next government take real action on the climate crisis and fix the rising cost of living, but he felt there were differences of opinion on the issue.
“Some parties are more willing to take on the cost of living, crime, repairing the economy after Covid, and others are taking the climate crisis more seriously. But I think climate change will be a major driver of this election. “It seems like it’s more like a tax election, more of a conversation about money,” he said.