Delay the election

On Tuesday 11 August Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the increase in COVID19 levels from 1 across New Zealand to LEVEL 2 everywhere except Auckland and LEVEL 3 for the unlucky city between the Bombay Hills and Warkworth. It was an unwelcome announcement for everyone including all of the political parties around New Zealand. As 19 September 2020 slowly draws closer, the Government is running out of time to announce whether the General Election will be delayed.

With Parliament now facing a compulsory decision making day on Monday, New Zealand is facing a rare moment in history when some of the leading lights of the west are floundering.In their bids to contain COVID19, countries without it under control are starting to visit the legalities of pushing elections scheduled for them out a few months. In New Zealand my understanding is that the Government can delay the election until some point in November without Parliament having to vote on it. This is a very good thing, because not least:

  • Parliament makes an allowance scheduling the timing of elections that  are affected by extraordinarily adverse events
  • If a Parliamentary vote is needed then there needs to be 75% of M.P.’s or 90 Member Parliament present when it is held

Ms Ardern has a few choices she can choose from, but these are constrained by Parliamentary convention. The first is that she needs to make a decision on Monday 17 August. Parliament could keep running until it naturally expires on 12 October, which means if Parliament were to naturally expire, a four week campaign period starting on 12 September, which leaves a calendar month for campaigning, would be possible. Giving Parliament that little bit of extra time in which to prepare.

I have no problems with delaying the election for a number of reasons. As indeed I had thought about the possibility of delaying up the elections.  First and foremost, the current arrangements are based in part on an assumption everything goes flawlessly in the current lock down.

However my reasons are rather different from the ones that the Opposition would like to see it be delayed for. Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins does not strike me as someone who would be hugely bothered by the idea of delaying it to give National a chance to rally its supporters, and indeed her display’s show. a lack of regard to the implementation of those laws. Ms Collins is quite happy to scorch the political landscape around her in order to make the Government see the folly of its decisions. As Martyn Bradbury (Citizen Bomber) writes. Such combative tactics do not bod well for New Zealand society and threaten to increase the already high levels of distrust between Parliamentary parties. As Bomber argues, these are not normal times. Maybe just this once we should delay the election.

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