In case you were wondering about my previous post, it was prompted by our general election on Saturday. Our electoral cycle is three years, too short really, as campaigns seem to come around when we’ve only just got used to having a new Prime Minister and government. I can’t wait for the election – and the forming of a government – to be over.
Our campaigns are short, so political fund-raising isn’t big business here. The competition to win the election isn’t determined by the person or parties that can raise the most money. In fact, we have regulations limiting spending to ensure the opposite. The vote is supposed to be on merit, but of course, like anywhere these days, the votes are also determined by who is the best performer to the cameras, who is most media savvy. But by and large, our elections are free of corruption, our electoral system ensures that voter preferences are in fact represented proportionally in our Parliament, and again, blessedly, the campaign is brief.
That last point is very important to me. Living in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and a very political town, I should be interested in the campaign. But over the years, as I gradually distanced myself from my political science degree, and left government employment, I became more and more frustrated with politics and politicians, and now my tolerance level is very low. When I lived in Thailand, I followed their local politics avidly – and not just because it was my job. It was fascinating to watch, and of course, I didn’t have to take it personally as it wasn’t my country, even when my heart bled for my Thai friends. Perhaps I watch US politics for the same reason – I can be amused, appalled or impressed at a distance, without that emotional involvement, that feeling of personal shame, I would have with New Zealand politics.
Of course, at the moment (and with the help of my US FB friends) I am keeping an eye on the US Republican candidates’ campaigns, and shudder (not only at the candidates) to think that this is simply the first heat, that the primaries haven’t yet started, and that there is then a full presidential race to follow, with elections this time next year. Our campaign, in contrast, began officially in late October, immediately after the Rugby World Cup ended. We vote on Saturday. Our campaigns last a month. I’m very thankful for that.
So you know, I realise that observing other countries’ political systems and politicians actually makes me feel better about my own. But I still can’t bear watching the leaders’ debates. And Saturday can’t come soon enough for me.