The real winner in the Hamilton West by-election was the Did Not Vote Party...
AS WAS generally predicted the National Party came out on top in the Hamilton West by-election. Its candidate Tama Potaka won with 6629 votes, with Labour's Georgie Dansey well behind on 4344 votes. Former Labour MP Gaurav Sharma, whose resignation triggered the by-election, attracted just 1156 votes. The ACT candidate received 1462 votes. The Green Party did not put up a candidate.
While voter turnout in by-elections is historically low, the turnout in Hamilton West was especially poor. Even though the electorate has some 49,000 registered voters just 14,392 votes were counted on election night. It seems that the only real interest in this by-election came from the politicians themselves and the media.
RNZ reports: 'The 31.4 percent turnout was just under 10 percent less than that for the Tauranga by-election held earlier this year. It was the lowest in the last four by-elections since 2016.'
While National Party leader Christopher Luxon has said that the result is convincing evidence that people want political change, the low turnout also suggests that people are not happy with what's on offer at the polling booths. People might well want political change, but they want change that isn't just a change in the seating arrangements in Parliament.
Labour Party president Jill Day said that the low turnout was 'unfortunate' but provided no explanation as to why this might be the case. Although if past explanations are any indication, it will be the folk of Hamilton West who will be blamed by the politicians and the media for 'apathy' and not taking their civic responsibilities seriously.
The low turnout in Hamilton West represents just one of a long series of historically low voter turnouts in general elections and by-elections. People are indifferent to the calls to vote from the political establishment and its media allies when they are confronted by a slate of political parties that are all committed to market-led policies and offer little in the way of a real alternative. The absence of a genuinely progressive political party on the New Zealand political landscape remains conspicuous.
It's unlikely the Hamilton West result will drive Labour to re-examine its own policies and the electorate can look forward to the uninspiring prospect of a general election where they will again be asked to vote for either Tweedledee or Tweedledum. If other recent general elections are anything to go by, some 700,000 people will say 'thanks, but no thanks'.
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