Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has decided to delay the election until October 17. Announcing the decision this morning, Ardern said the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community was a cause for concern during the election period.
Key dates:• Today: Business committee meets this afternoon to agree a parliament timetable.
• September 6: Parliament dissolves.
• September 7-21: The Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) 2020
• September 13: Writ Day, nominations close September 18.
• October 3: Advance voting begins, last day for return of the writ is November 12.
• October 17: Election day.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has decided to delay the election until October 17.
Announcing the decision this morning, Ardern said the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community was a cause for concern during the election period.
And while the Electoral Commission said voting could safely happen under alert level 2, Ardern said she also had to factor in participation of voters, fairness and certainty.
Under normal circumstances, the election date rests solely on the Prime Minister but Ardern said moving the election was a significant decision so she consulted other political leaders.
She considered complete consensus was unlikely but said all parties agreed on certainty.
The Green Party, Act and New Zealand First have all welcomed the delay while National leader Judith Collins, who called for a delay, said she “acknowledges the new date”.
Parliament will reconvene tomorrow. The dissolution of Parliament will now be Sunday October 6. The Governor General has been advised of the new date.
Ardern said she was advised October 17 meant the Electoral Commission would be able to draw on some of the work they’d already done and was preferable for voter turnout.
And while having early voting start during the school holidays meant some people would be moving around the country, impacting the Commission’s workforce it would also meant there would be some additional voting facilities available, like schools.
She said there were “many, many knock-on effects” to delaying the election, including to electoral workers and candidates who’d taken leave without pay to campaign, but she believed New Zealanders deserved certainty.
Ardern said Covid was the “world’s new normal” and gave the assurance she wouldn’t change the election date again.
“Covid will be with us for some time to come. Continuously pushing out an election does not lessen the risk of disruption and this is why the Electoral Commission has planned for the possibility of holding an election where the country is at level 2, and with some parts at level 3.
“I have absolutely no intention at all to change from this point.”
Pushing an election out by several months didn’t mean disruption was less likely, said Ardern.
Asked what would happen if New Zealand went back into alert level 4, she said: “I’m not anticipating that at this stage. There is no evidence that that is where we would be.”
If that were the case, the Electoral Commission has the power to delay the election out week by week.
A Herald-Kantar poll this morning revealed 60 per cent of New Zealanders did not think the election should still be held on September 19 – but opinions differed greatly between Auckland and the rest of New Zealand.
Ardern said she accepted a sense of anxiety, including from political parties, about the disruption to the start of the campaign period.
Ardern said she never considered a vote of no confidence was a threat because that would have triggered an election.
She said even if she didn’t pick up the phone and talk to anyone, October 17 was her preference.
It will be up to individual political parties about whether they suspend their campaigns but Labour wouldn’t re-launch theirs, she said.
Ardern is getting advice from Crown Law on spending caps for campaigning.
National, Act and NZ First had all called on Ardern to delay the election, saying the September date made it difficult for political parties to campaign, and that voters would be wary of voting.
Collins, who wanted the election moved to next year, tweeted this morning that Ardern had announced the new date was October 17.
In a press statement, Collins said “we acknowledge the new date” and that recalling Parliament was the right thing to do.
“The Opposition is willing to work constructively alongside the Government to deliver the health and economic response to this crisis that New Zealanders deserve, with many having sacrificed their jobs, their businesses and their livelihoods during lockdown.”
National MPs based in Auckland will remain there under alert level 3 restrictions.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw this morning said: “A change to the election day should occur because it is what is best to keep us safe and protect our democratic right to vote.
“We believe the date change to October 17 achieves that fine balance during a very challenging time.”
Co-leader Marama Davidson said: “We support the Prime Minister’s decision to move the date to October 17. Those additional four weeks should provide time for the public health response to get on top of the current outbreak.”
Winston Peters also welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision.
“New Zealand First is pleased that common sense has prevailed. We were concerned that the Covid outbreak had the effect of limiting campaigns to an unacceptably short period until overseas and advance voting begin if the general election was held on September 19,” he said.
Act leader David Seymour said Ardern had “done the right thing” by delaying and wanted at least four weeks at level 1 before the election.
“We need a new kind of leadership, because we can’t hug our way out of the crisis. New Zealanders need competence, not just good communication.
“A delay in the election date will give voters more time to weigh up the Government’s record and consider a competent alternative.”
The Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) 2020 will also now be postponed.
Under the Public Finance Act, the PREFU must be published between 20 and 30 working days before the general election so will now be between 7 and 21 September.