So how often do you get to vote for the leaders of two countries within a week? New Zealand's prime minister finally called the general election date last week -- November 8, just four days after America's own November 4 election you might have heard about. Like in Britain, an election date has to be chosen here by the party in power. Fascinating thing is, out-and-out campaigning is basically not allowed here UNTIL the election date is announced. So within like 8 hours of an election being announced, big-ass signs like these started popping up everywhere in Auckland.
I have to admit -- and a lot of New Zealanders have told me they feel the same way -- the US election is a heck of a lot more interesting this year from a political junkie's standpoint. So where do we stand? My totally uneducated thoughts two months out:
The US: OK, in retrospect I was totally wrong about the Palin effect on McCain's campaign. So far, that is. I still think this is Obama's election to lose, but the Republicans have run an increasingly venal, vile and frequently flat-out lying campaign that unfortunately, has often worked for them in the past. I hope for Obama, but I fear for McCain/Palin, frankly. The best assessment so far I've read was in The New York Times by Bob Herbert today: "While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail." And, "For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on American Idol.'"
New Zealand: I still stand by what I wrote a couple months back in my last NZ politics post: After nearly a decade, Labour's Prime Minister Helen Clark is up against a much bigger opponent than her titular rival John Key -- boredom. Running for her fourth three-year term, she's been behind in the polls for months. I like Clark and hope she gets in again, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The thing is, National's Key has very little to offer to me other than not being Helen Clark. There was an exhaustive two-part profile of the man in the Herald a couple months back that amazed me mostly by how bloody dull Key seemed to be. A man with very little political experience who's made a heck of a lot of money as a businessman, but other than that, not much that says "New Zealand needs Key!" He had the nerve to compare himself to Barack Obama recently which pretty much got him nothing but laughs in response. He's a terrible public speaker as well.
If Key is elected, I predict his political honeymoon to be about 20 minutes as New Zealanders realize what an empty suit he is. As for myself -- well, the cool thing about New Zealand is that voting for a minor party actually matters. If a party gets more than 5 percent of the vote, they get seats in Parliament. And as I mentioned before, in NZ we get TWO votes -- for the candidate and party. So I'm seriously considering splitting my vote, and going for a candidate I haven't decided on as my local rep, and voting for Green as the party vote to lend them a decent voice in power. I dunno though -- as the campaign has just started here officially, I barely know who my local MPs are. Hopefully that'll change soon as our campaign kicks off -- minus the pageantry of huge conventions and just a wee bit shorter than America's two-year-plus nomination marathon.