Populism getting louder in NZ but unlikely to gain traction


No doubt thanks to Donald Trump, Brexit, and a string of anti-establishment leaders and parties in Europe, Latin America and Asia, everyone seems to be talking about populism.

However, commentators think that it will be difficult for any right-wing populism political party to gain much support in New Zealand.

Coalition New Zealand is a new Destiny Church-backed political party.

It has received a lot of coverage from New Zealand’s media, although the church has no more than 10,000 members.

But it is not the only one assuming the role of “defender of Kiwi values” in the face of claimed threats such as increased migration, Sharia law and the curtailing of freedom of speech.

The New Conservative Party has been resurrected from the ashes of Colin Craig’s Conservative party.

For them, religious freedom, or freedom in general, is a primary issue.

The party’s presence is growing online, where it posts memes – visual jokes – deriding the Government, making fun of left-wing American politicians and calling firearm reform “virtue signalling.”

More extreme right-wing language is also used by parties nearer the mainstream, by political aspirants featuring on breakfast television.

Unlikely to gain traction

The last time the Destiny Party got involved in politics was in 2005.

The Destiny New Zealand party gained just 14,210 votes or 0.62 per cent.

Peter Lineham thinks that Coalition NZ will struggle to reach even that level of support.

Lineham is a retired religious history professor. He wrote Destiny: The Life and Times of a Self-Made Apostle.

He believes that New Zealand doesn’t have an equivalent to the United States rust belt, the collection of midwest states characterised by declining economic fortunes that often dictate the outcome of elections.

Coalition New Zealand will need to find an issue that draws together both Destiny’s predominantly Māori following and the wider religious Right — “and that’s very difficult”, Lineham said

University of Otago professor Robert Patman , an expert on populist politics, says with populism gaining ground through Trump and Brexit, there’s a sense of “new opportunities for parties who are not the mainstream”.

And, he says, it’s important not to forget New Zealand already has a successful populist but pragmatic party: New Zealand First.

That said, he thinks an internationally comparable swing to populism is for two reasons unlikely to reach the Government.

Parliament’s mixed-member proportional (MMP) system limits any populist movement’s attempt to go it alone.

And the second was the Christchurch terror attack.


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News category: New Zealand.