NEW Zealand had its general election on September 23, but as early as September 11 voters could already cast their votes in designated public places. I voted in a mall, days before the actual election day.
Filipinos in the past were rather withdrawn during elections, but this time there were many who were campaigning as two of their compatriots, Paulo Garcia and Romy Udanga, were running for seats in Parliamentary as official candidates of the two major parties, National and Labour respectively.
A few columns ago, I wrote about the uphill climb for the two Filipino candidates as they ran in electorates (districts in Philippine context) that were bailiwicks of their opponents. Still the candidates and their supporters campaigned vigorously to persuade constituents in their electorates to cast votes in their favor. Though not so pronounced, a few people I know tried to bring down either of the Filipino candidates, though the latter were not running for the same electorate. Even overseas, our crab mentality at times persists.
By 10:00pm on the day of the election, the counting in almost all electorates had been completed and while National obtained more seats than Labour, it could not obtain 61 seats in the 120-seat Parliament. New Zealand has adopted the mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system in 1996 replacing the first-past-the-post system that was used for more than a century. MMP was adopted to allow smaller parties a voice in Parliament.
Neither National (46% or 58 seats) or Labour (38.5% or 45 seats) obtained more than 50% of the party vote, thus both need support from minor parties where only three have obtained seats, namely ACT (1), Greens (7) and NZ First (9). ACT favors National (59), while the Greens side with Labour (52). NZ First prior to the election did not have any agreement with either of the two major parties, thus its leader, Winston Peters, holds the cards on who will govern. He said that he will wait for the result of the 380,000 special votes (like overseas and those who voted outside of their polling place). For now, nobody knows which party will govern until Peters decides.
Back to the Filipino candidates, though Labour’s Udanga lost hugely in the North Shore electorate, he increased the party vote by 14.18%. In the New Lynn electorate, Garcia lost by 1,886 votes described by one publication as “the closest race between two new political hopefuls.” In a post, Garcia reported on the increase of party votes for National in places where many Filipinos lived. At number 51 in the National party list, Garcia is just two ranks away from being elected as a party Member of Parliament.
The 2017 election in New Zealand has shown that there is a Filipino vote that can make a difference in the results, and maybe, in 2020, we will have a Filipino Member of Parliament.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 30, 2017.
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