The 2014 GENERAL ELECTION – PRELIMINARY RESULT gives us 0.41% of the party vote. That’s roughly 20% down on 2011’s final result of 0.52%, and pretty much back to where we were in 2008. (But we’re projected to be 0.45% after special votes are counted.)
With cannabis law reform happening in many jurisdictions around the world (e.g., Jamaica, Uruguary, Colorado, Washington) and the “synthetic cannabis” industry derailing itself this year here in New Zealand, cannabis law reform was supposed to have been much more of an election issue. But it wasn’t. So what happened?
Before we get to that, let’s take a look at our party vote performance in previous MMP elections. The ALCP first contested the general election in 1996, which was New Zealands first under the Mixed-Member Proportional system. (See NEW ZEALAND ELECTION RESULTS.)
The 1996 general election saw the ALCP’s best party vote result. Subsequently, its vote share steadily declined to an all-time low of 0.25% three elections later in 2005. It’s risen since then, to 0.52% of the party vote in 2011. Last Saturday’s result is a slight dip, but as much as 20% down on 2011’s result nonetheless. How to explain all this?
I think a big part of the explanation is obvious. After 1996 and again after 1999, cannabis law reform voters came to the realisation that a vote for the ALCP was a “wasted” vote. Wasted in the sense that it was extremely unlikely that the ALCP would ever reach the 5% threshold and have MPs enter Parliament. Nonetheless, a vote for the ALCP is worthwhile as a protest vote, worthwhile because protesting is worthwhile and it’s absolutely clear what AlCP voters are protesting about: cannabis prohibition.
But cannabis law reformers want more than just to protest, they also want to effect change. And I think another part of the explanation of the decline in the ALCP’s party vote share in 2002 and 2005 is that the cannabis vote was cannibalised by the Green Party. In 1996 Nandor Tanczos and Metiria Turei were candidates on the ALCP’s list. In 1999 Nandor Tanczos was on the Green Party’s list and entered Parliament. By 2002 it was obvious to cannabis law reform voters that in the dreadlocked skateboarding Rastafarian MP the CLR cause had a champion in Parliament, and in 2002 Nandor Tanczos was joined by Metiria Turei (after her 1999 stint with the McGillicuddy Serious Party). (Nandor Tanczos has since left the toxic hellhole that is New Zealand’s Parliament. Metiria Turei remains and is now the Green Party’s co-leader with Russel Norman.)
I confess that I party voted Green once (I’m pretty sure it was in 2002) and for exactly the reason just outlined. I’m sorry. 🙁
Giving my CLR vote to the Greens turned out to be a mistake. (Even though in my book Nandor Tanczos was, and still is, cool.) It was a mistake for two reasons. Because, beyond legalising a couple of strains of industrial hemp, the Greens have done nothing for cannabis law reform despite having had Parliamentary representation for 18 years now. And my vote for the watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) no doubt helped further their far-left agenda. Fortunately, in 2003 I saw the light of liberty, identified as a libertarian, and joined the Libertarianz Party. 🙂
Fast forward to 2014 and the cannabis vote was again cannibalised. This time by the Internet Party who basically copied the ALCP’s cannabis policy (stopping only just short of full, Colorado-style legalisation) and announced it barely two weeks out from the election. With much song and dance, since Internet Party leader Laila Harre’s partner in crime, the Mana Movement’s leader Hone Harawira, balked and gave the Internet Party’s policy pronouncement a great deal of extra publicity. (See, e.g., Internet Mana leaders fall out over weed and Mana leader angry at cannabis plan.)
It’s hard to tell how many party votes went to the Internet Mana Party that would otherwise have gone to the ALCP, given that the IMPs gained only 1.26% of the party vote (although projected to rise to 1.37% after special votes are counted). I’d like to think it was at least as many party votes as we lost compared to our 2011 election result.
This time I wasn’t anywhere near stupid or unprincipled enough to give my party vote to the IMPs. But those who were and did also made an electoral mistake. We witnessed InternetMana self-destructing over cannabis policy. Hone Harawira lost his (inaptly named) Te Tai Tokerau seat to Labour’s Kelvin Davis, and so all those CLR voters who voted IMPs flushed their party votes straight down the toilet. They should have protested instead! Then at least we’d know that they voted for cannabis law reform.
Regardless, perhaps John Key will hear the CLR message and legalise cannabis in the Fifth National Government’s third Parliamentary term.