An eighteenth century European philosopher, Joseph de Maistre, remarked – Toute nation a le gouvernement quell merit – Every nation gets the government it deserves.
Sadly, we in New Zealand might soon prove to be an exception.
The land of long white cloud – Aotearoa – might see a dark lining to the hitherto shining institution of democracy.
A community, where still honesty boxes are the norm rather than an exception and you still get a message to collect your wallet if you have dropped it anywhere in the town; it is frightening to think what may happen in the near future in the country’s governance.
Political opportunism is a blight that is affecting New Zealand politics.
Though it is not entirely new, it is now reaching alarming levels. Almost all parties have “borrowed” leaders from others. Movement from one camp to another is not always a dubious step as some people may have genuine change of heart or some parties may change their policies under a new leadership, making it hard to compromise with one’s values. However, most of the moves can be directly credited to unfulfilled ambitions or fall from grace in one’s own party, which becomes the cause of seeking greener pastures elsewhere.
In some other countries, this phenomenon may not be rare and even acceptable to a certain extent. New Zealand has a reasonably mature voting public, which has in the past relegated such turncoats to the side-lines of public life.
Some politicians, after being tainted or being marginalised by their party, have left public life totally such as National’s Pansy Wong and Richard Worth, but there are others, who still nurse a desire to have another go at the polls.
They often change their affiliation and hitch their wagon to a new star (or what they hope will become a star). The fate of such experiments has also been tragic looking at the New Zealand First in the 2008 election (post the allegations and censure of Winston Peters), or Internet Mana in 2014 (after Hone Harawira changed from Maori to Mana to Internet-Mana).
So, it will be interesting to see what transpires in the coming elections.
There are a host of politicians vying for the elusive mandate of the voters’ confidence, who are now wearing different colours than before. For example, Shane Jones, who left Labour after unsuccessfully trying to lead the party and is now batting for NZ First.
Another leader, Teresa Moore, who was till recently on the rolls of Green Party, has joined The Opportunities Party and is their candidate.
The Opportunities Party has also accepted the leader of Cannabis Party – Abe Gray. Some leaders of Indian descent have recently renounced their previous affiliations to start a brand new political outfit, which interestingly has both Red and Blue as the party colours, leaving it as anybody’s guess which way their support will go in the unlikely event of their entry into Parliament.
An interesting event involving another leader of Indian descent, has been the sudden and unforeseen quitting of Labour party by Sunny Kaushal and joining the National Party. As a National Party supporter, I welcome him, provided that his reason is a genuine realisation that the country is doing a lot better under the National-led Government in last eight and a half years, regardless of his and his previous party’s criticism of everything that the government did.
However, in case the reason is a stunted personal growth or non-fulfilment of a personal agenda during his membership of the Labour Party, and if these are catered to by the National party, it would send a very wrong signal both to the community and to voters. It would simply mean that anybody who knows how to indulge in horse-trading, back-stabbing or waka-jumping could get away with it.
That is definitely not what we want to see in this country. After all we deserve better.
Footnote – for a list of all waka-jumpers of NZ politics going back to 1891 scan this code.
Manish Tanna is an educationist and community worker, currently teaching at Mahurangi College, Warkworth. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org