Greens sweep 10 seats in huge NZ win for climate crisis, social justice action

Green Party leadership 171020
Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw ... this time around, can they hope for Labour to consider their MPs for ministerial roles or cabinet positions? Image: RNZ File

By RNZ News

The Green Party say voters have given a strong signal they are valued in the New Zealand government, and they have ambitions for executive roles in the next one.

With special votes still to be counted in yesterday’s general election, the party has 180,224 votes or 7.6 percent of votes nationally, which wins them nine list MPs as well as the hotly contested third place for party vote share.

It is a spot that is typically a scramble between the smaller parties, and can bestow the possibility of negotiating a key place in a coalition government.

NZ ELECTIONS 2020 – 17 October

However Labour’s sweeping victory with 64 seats gives the party enough seats to govern alone.

Green co-leader Marama Davidson told RNZ’s Guyon Espiner she is very happy with the outcome, which should give them 10 MPs.

In 2017 the party got 6.2 percent of the party vote.

Electorate win in Auckland Central
This year’s one electorate win was for Chlöe Swarbrick, number three on the party’s list, who polled better on election day than polls had showed in the lead-up, and won the Auckland Central seat off the opposition National Party.

She beat Labour’s Helen White by 492 votes, however Labour won that electorate’s party vote. The only other Green Party member to have ever held an electorate seat was Jeanette Fitzsimons, for Coromandel in 1999.

Swarbrick’s win means another Green candidate from further down the list is headed for Parliament.

“I’m really ecstatic, completely stoked. We were hoping to stay above five percent, because historically smaller first term government parties do not achieve that,” Davidson says.

“Not only have we defied the results… but we’ve increased our support to 10 MPs. [We have] three new incredible MPs, I’m completely ecstatic.”

The party’s list number eight is Teanau Tuiono (Palmerston North), who Davidson says will be their first Pasifika MP.

Number nine is LGBTQI and Māori activist Elizabeth Kerekere (Ikaroa-Rāwhiti); and anti-poverty campaigner Ricardo Menéndez March (Maungakiekie) is the number 10.

Special votes crucial
Davidson said special votes would show whether they could boost their number to 11, as well.

She said the party would meet together today to discuss what they wanted next; whether they wanted to negotiate with Labour to try to form a coalition government again, what the crucial factors are that they wanted on the table, and what would be the deal-breakers for them.

Davidson said that despite the strength of Labour’s position, she believed New Zealanders would still prefer a coalition.

“People do not want to see just one political party in full power,” she said.

“They totally gave huge [numbers] to Labour, that’s clear, but I think it’s been clear in the polls and the surveys done right up to the election, and the fact Greens swung an extra 2 percent on top of what we were polling – it’s again a clear mandate for not just one party to hold all the reigns of power.”

Davidson said they did not yet have any appointment set up to meet with Labour, and today the Greens would hold internal discussions about what their next steps might be.

“I am being upfront with our strategy here: [talk of a coalition] will absolutely come back to the members, on how well we can see our long term future going into the next term; whether or not we are able to achieve our work programme, our priorities in climate, inequality and environment.

Roles to progress Greens programme
“Whether or not we achieve roles that can progress that work programme. That is what… agreement will come down to for our members. And we won’t be able to pre-empt that for our members.”

In the outgoing government New Zealand First won 7.2 percent of the party vote, but crucially that gave them the ability to swing the balance of power between a right or left -leaning government. They played that position into gaining the deputy Prime Minister role for party leader Winston Peters, three positions in cabinet, an outside cabinet a ministerial and an under-secretary role.

By contrast, the Greens came away poorer: three ministerial positions (including Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Women and Minister of Conservation), and an under-secretary role, but all outside of cabinet.

“Outside of the executive in the last term, the Greens in Government achieved more action for climate change than 30 years,” Davidson said.

But this time around, can they hope for Labour to consider their MPs for ministerial roles or cabinet positions?

“We would want to see roles that would progress [our work] programme, and yes, it would involve some ministerial responsibility at that level,” she said.

“Across all of our MPs, we will be looking at aligning potential roles with the work programme, as a whole not just down to one person.”

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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