The tsunami of elections ritually inundates New Zealand every three years.
As the date draws nearer, the roar of the political parties and candidates reaches a crescendo. Hands are shaken, babies are kissed and political debates draw the nation to the edge.
It is a healthy sign and every robust democracy must ignite such citizen participation and passion.
The institution of democracy has undergone gradual transformation over the years, in conflict with its basic precept of Government of the people, for the people and by the people.
In many countries, the process has been tempered to become merely a medium for the powerful, dominant and corrupt to gain leadership and pursue their own selfish agendas. The democratic process gives legitimacy to the elected to govern not as they should but as they want.
Democracy differs markedly in some countries, with the ruling elite aligning with the military and police to manipulate the electoral process through fraud or coercion. And people succumb to such pressures.
The power consequently becomes entrenched in the hands of the ruling aristocracy who share the spoils with those protecting, promoting and defending their interests.
In some countries of the Third World, democracy is corroded with corruption, allowing criminal elements to easily be elected to the Parliament. Increasingly, the trend is that a dominant leader of a pack of criminals lays siege in a defined territory where people submit to their power and authority out of fear. With pervasive fear, the people become the voting block for such leaders who eventually are elected to the parliament or to the state legislatures.
A vibrant democracy
We are fortunate to live in a country where we have the unfettered right in exercising our votes.
The National Party has had a dream run since the last elections and Prime Minister John Key has earned popularity of the people with decorum and dignity that is the envy of other leaders. With his debonair personality and proven ability, he stands a great chance to lead his Party to an unprecedented victory, noting the chasm between it and the Labour Party.
But National has just dipped in the recent polls below 50 points and Labour remains with about 30 points.
Labour Leader Phil Goff has worked hard to lift his Party’s image with a powerful election manifesto, Yet, the people have not been drawn to it.
It has promised $15 per hour minimum wage and has given assurance that it would not sell state assets. Both are attractive proposals but have not helped to lift Labour fortunes in the opinion polls.
But do not write off the Labour Party, as in the MMP environment, marriage of convenience between or among the parties can easily assign the National Party to the opposition benches.
Greens get Greener
New Zealand First is now making strong gains in the polls and its mercurial leader Winston Peters is a seasoned politician and a master tactician who has the ability to rise from the ashes and reclaim his turf.
He is the face of a modern politician who knows the art of politics as few others know. Through sheer power of his ability to debate and eloquence, he can turn the tables in his favour.
Some feel that he may emerge as the kingmaker during the post-election era but his chances of joining a National-led government is nil.
The Greens are becoming greener by the day, as the polls show that it is making steady progress. It has always been a close ally of Labour and may remain so.
ACT Party is heading for extinction, although its Epsom candidate (former Auckland Mayor), may turn the wheel of fortune with victory.
The Maori Party is expected to retain its dominance in the Maori electorate but it cannot ignore the challenge of the Mana Party led by maverick MP Hone Harawira who is biting at their heels.
The MMP factor will impact strongly in the formation of the next government.
The battle lines are drawn and the intensity of the campaign is rising to a fever pitch. It has been an eventful year for New Zealand, some good and some tragic.
However, New Zealand, as a country has endured tragedy with dignity and has earned the respect of the world not only as a great sporting nation, having staged and won the Rugby World Cup 2011 but also as a strong, stable and vibrant democracy that is worthy of being copied by others.
Apart from the elections, the people have an opportunity to participate in a Referendum indicating their preference for a voting system in future elections.
Voting is a right that needs to be carefully and cautiously exercised because it equates to an investment in the future of this nation.
With impending global recession, there is a dire need to invest in leaders with vision, courage, honesty and integrity to guide us through the difficult times that lie ahead.
The leaders who comprise the next government will have some difficult choices to make. They may not be popular with the people but in the interests of the nation and its future, such choices may protect or help in protecting our social, economic and political interests. For a better tomorrow, invest in leaders who have served with honesty, sincerity and integrity.
Rajendra Prasad is an Indian Newslink Columnist Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more reports under Electionlink and our Editorial under Viewlink in this issue.