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Clarity of policies would determine voter verdict

New Zealanders will vote to elect their representatives to the 51st Parliament on September 20, 2014.

While the general election is usually held in November every three years, polling has been brought forward by about eight weeks this year.

Prime Minister John Key and his Council of Ministers deemed it necessary to advance the election to allow time for the new Government to settle into office before the G20 Summit scheduled to be held on November 15 and 16 in Brisbane, Australia.

The incumbent National-led Government will seek to win a third term at these polls.

The Party has two main advantages, namely the resurgent and a highly popular leader. Even his staunchest critics will agree that he is one of the most popular leaders ever seen in New Zealand politics.

Now in his sixth year as Prime Minster, his approval ratings are high. A pragmatic politician, he has a grip on the nation’s pulse. He has a unique ability to connect with voters, who regard him as one among them.

Drastic change

The world economy has changed drastically since National assumed power in 2008.

The Global Financial Crisis has significantly altered the dialogue and trajectory of economic discussions and policy. Fiscal conservationism is the new mantra for government the world over.

We have seen the disastrous effects of this crisis on many western world economies. National is campaigning saying that is has successfully carried New Zealand through this turmoil virtually unscathed, heading into a possible surplus in this year’s budget. The rebuild of Christchurch after the earthquakes has also drawn widespread appreciation.

However, the worrying part for National will be the electoral performance of its allies.

The Maori Party has a fight on its hands holding on to its seats against the resurgent Labour Party, and the Act Party’s future hinges on the success of its candidate at Epsom.

Labour has had a difficult time on the opposition benches.

Labour consolidates

David Cunliffe is their third leader since Helen Clark resigned after the 2008 electoral defeat. Mr Cunliffe was the first leader chosen after new voting processes were adopted by the party. This meant the Labour Caucus, Party members and Party-affiliated Unions voted to choose their leader.

Mr Cunliffe won the election convincingly. He has succeeded outwardly, in bringing all factions together to contest the ensuing election.

Labour will also campaign the elections on the state of the economy. It main thrust looks set to be on the perceived widening differences between the rich and the poor.

However, what the Party really needs is practical policies on the lines of KiwiSaver and interest-free student loans which helped it gain public confidence and votes in the past.

The Green Alliance

It is widely expected that Labour can come to power only in alliance with the Green Party. Whilst Labour has rejected the Greens’ proposal of a joint electoral campaign, it should be careful not to appear to be squabbling with a prospective partner.

The focus for both parties should be on attracting voters in the middle of the political divide, and not eating into each other’s vote share.

This election could be a close race. But the voters have made one thing clear: they expect all parties to make their policies clear on issues that affect them.

Irreverence and mudslinging have no place in this nation’s political discourse.

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