Small party electoral strategy

The strategy of parties, especially smaller ones, in multiparty systems is a particular interest of mine (a statement that will surprise no one). Here are a few interesting examples from the current New Zealand campaign.

One area of interest is about… interests. What interest groups do small parties cultivate for support?

Greens want to spend millions backing NZ game developers” was a headline on TV NZ on 12 September. Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman says, “Game developers are currently locked out of the government support and grants that other creatives receive. Our plan remedies this anomaly”. Computer game developers are not an interest group I normally think about, but the Green Party has acknowledged them.

Photo credit: Errol Cavit, in Maungakiekie electorate. Used by permission. I am not there this year, so I rely on Errol for my election-sign photos. But you can still see my collection from 2011!

OK, so what about the racehorse industry? Check. Winston Peters recently reminded voters of “a 10-point plan from New Zealand First to save the racing industry”. In fact, earlier in the campaign, he gave a speech to the New Zealand Trainers’ Association. In the speech he claimed credit for past good deeds when he was Racing Minister in a Labour-led government:

In 2006, New Zealand First recognised the export potential of the New Zealand breeding industry and the need for improved international marketing, and achieved a much improved taxation regime through a reduction in totalisator duty and an accelerated write-down regime for bloodstock.

Peters added an allegation that “Over the past six years National has done nothing for the racing industry.”

Returning to the Greens, of course, the party is mostly an urban-based party. However, one of the characteristics of nationwide proportional representation is that votes anywhere help increase your aggregate seat total. And so the Greens’ co-leader Norman and their transport spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter, campaigned in the rural far north on their plans to make rebuilding storm-battered roads a priority. “Ms Genter said central government’s roading priorities meant there was not enough investment outside big cities.”

Additionally, Greens did a photo-op* at a dairy farm to announce their “Smart farming for clean rivers’ policy”. I suspect that one, unlike the one regarding roads in Northland, was mainly aimed at urban consumers. But the party does seek (and, apparently, receive) votes from the small-farm sector, especially organic and “sustainable” farms. Not to be outdone in this policy niche, a big party, National, has emphasized that its primary industries policy takes into account that:

Environmental sustainability is increasingly important to consumers around the world and this is a priority for National. We are cleaning up waterways and carefully manage fishing stocks, including the creation of two recreational fishing parks in the Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds.

National’s primary industries spokesman Nathan Guy also noted that “We will continue to support carefully-targeted irrigation projects that will deliver economic and environmental benefits for New Zealand.”

I must admit that I am happy New Zealand’s legislative term is just three years, and that it has a thriving multiparty system. These characteristics of NZ politics keep things interesting!

* The linked item has the photo and caption, but the story is about “Greens need to compromise to get ahead”. This is something that some of their subsequent statements indicate they are well aware of.

8 thoughts on “Small party electoral strategy

  1. I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen the Greens in Auckland push ‘Better trains, faster!’, I would have thought that there are spots where that would pick up some swing voters.


  2. Regarding the Greens’ farming photo-op: yes, the clean rivers policies mainly appeal to urban or semi-rural constituencies, the Greens have been consciously pursuing farmers’ votes as well. They’ve placed a candidate with a serious, mainstream agricultural background John Hart in a borderline winnable position on their list (18, 2 inside what their target of 20 MPs), and have been trying to communicate an alternative agribusiness strategy to rural communities.
    However I think the perception that farmers and the Greens are ‘natural opponents’ causes some reluctance on both sides to engage with farming constituencies, and hence farmers tend to be National-aligned by default.

    Definitely however the Greens and other minor parties (such as Conservatives and NZ1st) have show an affinity for the use of valence issues in order to alienate as few voters as possible.


  3. “the Greens, of course, the party is mostly an urban-based party”

    I am the only who finds a bit ironic the Greens (probably in all countries in the world) being “of course, (…) an urban-based party”?


    • Why are all Greens party urban-based parties? What about the Scandinavian Agrarian Center parties? Where do they fit in the world of left-right politics?


      • Ha. Miguel, yes, it is a bit ironic, I suppose. But post-materialism does tend to be a concern of better off urban (and suburban) voters more so than rural. In any case, I was only making an observation based on where their concentrations of votes have been in past elections. I am aware of pockets of support in rural areas, however.

        Rob, as you note the former “Agrarian” parties of the Nordic countries are now now “Center”. They certainly are not part of the “green” family of parties.


  4. I found the link to the article on Peters’ speech before the racing industry association, and added a quote to the main post.

    The story had been open in the browser of my smartphone all this time. It’s smarter than its operator, obviously.


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