Voter turnout is predicted to be even lower this election than the previous two general elections. Understandable. When the election is portrayed as a Mr New Zealand contest, who cares who wins?
But a general election is not a popularity contest. Political parties should have to do more than thrust their leaders in front of a camera. There are important issues at stake.
Should New Zealand sign secret international trade agreements that are binding in perpetuity and give corporates the right to sue us for any restrictions that might affect their profits? In effect signing away our sovereignty, our right to make decisions about what happens in our country?
Is continued economic growth something we should be aiming for even if it threatens to destroy the planet?
Do we want to live in a country, or a world, where some people are very very rich and others are very very poor?
Should we be moving our tax system from a relatively flat tax system to a fairer, more progressive system that focuses on taxing wealth rather than consumption?
Is it realistic for everyone to have a paid job? Should we be redefining what constitutes meaningful employment?
Do we agree everyone should have a decent education, healthcare, a warm dry place to live, food on the table, a liveable income?
Election time is when we get to debate these issues and decide the direction of the country. Not which party leader has the nicest smile. Let’s face it, they’re all photoshopped anyway! And there are a lot more than two people involved. If elections were less trivialized, perhaps more people would turn out to vote.
In the meantime, here’s an idea that might turn the tide of voter apathy; not an Alliance original, but one that deserves a bit of promotion. Why not hold elections mid-week and make election day a national holiday – call it Democracy Day? Celebrate the fact that collectively, we actually get to choose our government. And it’s important.