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Early Election Irresponsible

Thursday 30 May 2002

ACT leader Richard Prebble says an early election would be irresponsible, and damaging to New Zealand's reputation as a stable democracy.

"There is no constitutional crisis to justify an early election. It would be an abuse of the Prime Minister's power. In a nation with no written constitution, we have to rely on unwritten convention," Mr Prebble said.

"It is an important unwritten convention that the government on New Zealand will govern for a full term.

"I have called on the Prime Minister to stamp out wild talk of an early election, which she could do with a simple press statement, re-affirming the government's intention to govern full-term.

"Rumours of an early election are damaging to the economy. Investors hate uncertainty, and no matter what the polls say, every election is a gamble.

"There are already clear signs that the early-election talk has damaged investment. Overseas investment, which is measured, is not only down but most overseas investment that has occurred has been `hot' money going mainly into short-term government bonds. There is almost most new investment going into greenfield enterprises.

"Feedback I've been getting from the business community is that election uncertainty is starting to affect decision-making. People are reluctant to make long-term commitments when they don't know what the new rules will be after an election.

"Talk of an early election is also damaging because people look for reasons why the government would be concerned about its prospects in November - for example, higher interest rates, a higher dollar, increased inflation and lower commodity prices.

"The government is inflicting this damage onto the electorate unnecessarily. If Labour has confidence in its administration, it will be prepared to serve full-term.

"As one of the few MPs who campaigned through the winter election of 1984, I am aware of how a winter campaign affects democracy. On cold, wet nights, people are not prepared to go out to meetings, it's impossible to hold open-air soapbox rallies and it's difficult to get volunteers to deliver pamphlets. After the last winter election, senior politicians on both sides agreed not to do it again.

"It seems Helen Clark is attracted to the idea of a hermetically-sealed election dominated by television, rather than a robust election out in the community where the government must defend and justify its record.

"I suspect an early election would turn out to be counter-productive for the Clark government, just as the two previous early elections were for the governments at the time.

"The government should remember that 20 percent of voters don't own cars. In a July election in some parts of the country it could be literally snowing on election day, and many Labour voters could sit at home," Mr Prebble said.


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