New Zealand’s 2023 election in five songs

General elections are held every three years in New Zealand and they’re due soon. Our electoral system is known as Mixed Member Proportional (MMP for short). Everyone gets two votes – one for a party and one for an electorate MP (Member of Parliament) – and a party wins seat in parliament if they either:

  • win at least 5% of the party vote
  • win an electorate seat.

As a snapshot of the political landscape in New Zealand in 2023, here’s a song for each political party, all from the 1980s.


I’m Going Down by Bruce Springsteen

The leader of the centre-left party Labour, Jacinda Ardern stood down from parliament early in 2023. She presided over a tumultuous five years in New Zealand history. With a background in communications she was terrific at guiding the country through COVID lockdowns and the awful mosque massacre. Her replacement Chris Hipkins is far less charismatic than his predecessor, but crucially it feels like the country is ready for a change after six years of Labour in charge – it looks like Hipkins is going down.

I have some personal history with Prime Minister Hipkins. At primary school he made me read the first page of Roald Dahl’s The Twits out loud to him before I was allowed to issue it from the school library. He was just a primary school student like me – I guess bureaucracy starts early.


Big Time by Peter Gabriel

The plummeting of Labour means that the centre-right party National is likely to take the power. While I’m not surprised that people are veering away from Hipkins, Luxon hardly seems appealing either. He feels like a return to the 1980s neo-liberal policies that ravaged New Zealand in the 1980s – hence the choice of Gabriel’s 1980s yuppie mocking anthem ‘Big Time’.

Democracy NZ, Freedoms New Zealand, Leighton Baker Party, New Conservative, New Nation Party, New Zealand Loyal, NZ Outdoors & Freedom Party, Vision NZ

Subdivisions by Rush

There aren’t enough crazy New Zealanders to get one far-right party over the 5% threshold in parliament. Splitting the crazy extremist votes over eight different parties clearly isn’t going to work, but these fringe groups all believe different things so it’s impossible for them to work together.

It’s hard to keep track of all these little parties- Leighton Baker used to be the leader of the New Conservatives but has embarked on a solo career, while Freedoms New Zealand is an umbrella party of several other parties on the list. Confusingly, you can vote for Freedoms New Zealand or for the individual parties that it represents. This means that Freedoms leader Brian Tamaki and his wife Hannah Tamaki are competing with each other for votes.

They clearly have unrealistic expectations – according to Wikipedia “Brian Tamaki stated in May 2023 that he believed the party could get 20% of the vote in that year’s general election. As of August 2023, 1News Verian polls indicated that total support for Freedoms NZ and its component parties to sat between 0% and 0.8%.”


Controversy by Prince

ACT aren’t quite as provocative as the right-wing fringe parties – leader David Seymour is a libertarian, but too deft of a politician to ostracise the mainstream by embracing fringe candidates. Yet he’s had to oust a bunch of candidates based on their controversial opinions – recently Elaine Naidu Franz compared COVID vaccine protocols to Nazi concentration camps.

The Green Party

Elizabeth My Dear by The Stone Roses

The Greens are on the other end of the spectrum from the ACT party, but have also had problems with their personnel. The biggest story for the Green Party in recent months has been the public falling out of MP Elizabeth Kerekere. Kerekere berated another (much more competent) MP in a group chat, calling her a crybaby. She proceeded to quit the party, citing an “epic failure of leadership”.

This Stone Roses song doesn’t quite fit – Elizabeth Kerekere managed to shoot herself in the foot without anyone else pulling the trigger. But nonetheless, it was curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear.

It’s looking like we may have only four or five parties in parliament this year – Labour, National, ACT, and the Greens are certain to be represented, while Te Pāti Māori are likely to win some Māori seats.

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Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.


  1. I had no knowledge of the New Zealand political system until now and this was a very interesting way to learn more about it. Well done. At least New Zealand isn’t like my country of birth where two parties have a stranglehold over the entire system and wield unfair advantages over third parties.

  2. As others will say…I’m sure. We have only two parties that are full of crazy extremists and any third party has no chance. The only way it would is if some very popular politican would move to independent. The problem is the two parties will not work together.
    The last president to actually work with the other side…the way it is suppose to work…was Clinton who worked with republican Newt Gingrich and America had one of the best economies ever…since then though it’s gone down hill.
    Love the songs.

    • The US election system makes it difficult for third parties – you have to win a whole state, right? And the whole election is decided in a few swing states.

      • Yes an electoral college. That doesn’t bother me at all…because it keeps states like Wyoming and smaller populated states relevant with different views.
        Yes you are correct. That doesn’t bother me…it’s the third party deal.

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