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WikiLeaks: Green Party Co-leaders Death

WikiLeaks cable: Co-leader's death likely to steer NZ's Green Party further left

November 25, 2005 Co-leader's death likely to steer NZ's Green Party further left

date:2005-11-25T03:19:00 source:Embassy Wellington origin:05WELLINGTON907 destination:This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. classification:CONFIDENTIAL reference:05WELLINGTON692 ?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000907

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO (STEPHENS) AND EAP/ANP NSC FOR VICTOR CH... ?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000907

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO (STEPHENS) AND EAP/ANP NSC FOR VICTOR CHA SECDEF FOR OSD/ISA ELIZABETH PHU PACOM FOR J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ AIT FOR DAVID KEEGAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2015 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, NZ SUBJECT: CO-LEADER'S DEATH LIKELY TO STEER NZ'S GREEN PARTY FURTHER LEFT

REF: WELLINGTON 692

Classified By: DCM David R. Burnett, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

Summary --------

1. (C) New Zealand's Green Party is likely to move further left following the unexpected death of its relatively pragmatic co-leader Rod Donald. The Greens, who garnered about 5% of the party vote in September's general election, are in a confidence and supply agreement with the Labour coalition Government. Because the party's votes are not needed for Labour to form a Parliamentary majority, they have little real influence on Government policy. But if the current coalition collapses, for example because of a defection by Foreign Minister (and NZ First leader) Winston Peters, Labour might have to make concessions to the more radicalized Greens to form a new Government. This would hurt Labour's standing among more mainstream New Zealanders. End Summary.

2. (C) The death of Green Party co-leader Rod Donald is proving to be a decisive moment for the political future of the Green movement in New Zealand. Donald was a pragmatist who had a unique appeal across parties and to the wider electorate. He was the only Green who could communicate with business, and although companies often disagreed with him he did not frighten or anger them the way his fellow party members usually do. As reported reftel, Donald was also the only Green MP to reach out to the Embassy. As was made obvious following his shocking, sudden death from a rare myocardial virus on Nov. 19, even non-Green Kiwis favorably regarded Donald as someone who lived by his principles. His consistently upbeat manner made a mark in this somewhat depressive society, particularly in contrast to his more dour co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons.

3. (C) The post-Donald Green Party is certainly not doomed, but it will almost definitely change its character. Despite the belief that personalities do not matter and that the Green vision and mission is bigger than any one advocate, the party under the next co-leader is likely to be more of a zealot than a pragmatist. Donald left the Green Party without an obvious successor. There are, however, three identifiable candidates for the co-leadership, who must be male under the Party,s constitution. All are more radical and less pragmatic than Donald. Two, Keith Locke and Nandor Tanczos, are MPs. The third, Russell Norman, is the party's national campaign manager.

4. (C) Neither Lock nor Tanczos have the same sort of broader leadership appeal of Donald, appealing instead to the fervent core of loyal Green supporters. Locke lacks Donald's ebullience. A returning member of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Locke is a passionate leftist crusader with an incontrovertible and unwavering mistrust of United States foreign policy. He has, for example, been a loud and constant critic of the NZ Government's decision to send SAS troops to Afghanistan, claiming that NZ should not be supporting what Locke claims are US "war crimes" there. Tanczos, a half-Hungarian Rastafarian, was squeezed out of Parliament by the Greens' reduced party votes in the last election. He reentered Parliament to replace Donald. An amiable man, Tanczos is best known in New Zealand for his relentless campaign to legalize marijuana, which -- together with his dreadlocks -- has definitely detracted from his gravitas. (The marijuana stigma has also moved from Tanczos himself to taint the party as a whole, leading some Green Party officials to express frustration that the party is now automatically associated with the drug.) Tanczos' first public act since returning to Parliament has been to decry the decision of a South Island dairy to stop selling its milk in glass bottles.

5. (C) Russell Norman, the national campaign manager who does not sit in Parliament, is most frequently mentioned as the possible replacement for Donald. An Australian with a PhD in politics, Norman has Donald,s enthusiasm but little of his pragmatism. He does, however, have organizational skills, a decided asset in a party traditionally weak in them. He also has broad Green experience in both New Zealand and Australia. Although selecting a co-leader from outside parliament would be unusual, it would not necessarily lack credibility with Greens themselves, who have always emphasized grassroots accountability.

The Greens: Little effect on policy under present circumstances --------------------------------------------- ----

6. (C) Despite Donald's best efforts, the Greens were unable to get their hands on the levers of power after the election. Under Donald, the Greens played a much more supportive role for Labour in 2005 and were explicitly clear in their willingness to form a coalition and have a place in Cabinet. Much to the distress of Donald personally, this did not happen. If anything, the Green influence on policy has weakened under this Government. Even if the post-Donald Green Party moves left, it will not have much, if any, effect on the political direction of the Government. There is little trust between the hard left of the Greens and the hard left of the Labour Party. Although there may be some synergy in areas of industrial relations and labor issues between the two, Labour's left remains skeptical of and nervous towards their Green counterparts, seeing them more as rivals than as colleagues.

But... -------

7. (C) If, however, NZ First leader Winston Peters defects (or is booted) from Labour's governing coalition and the arrangement collapses, PM Clark will only be able to form a new Government if she can demonstrate continued Green support, as she will have lost the seven NZ First MPs she has used to form a majority. (Indeed, a Labour Party official has told us that the Greens are Labour's "insurance policy" in case Peters breaks out of the coalition.) The now more-radicalized Greens would in this case be in a much stronger position to demand policy concessions, a seat in Cabinet, or both. This in turn could seriously undermine Labour's standing in the polls among more "mainstream" New Zealanders, a prospect that the opposition National Party would certainly exploit.

8. (C) Perhaps because there is no clear successor for Donald, the Greens are in no hurry to elect one, and recently announced they will not do so until the party's Annual General Meeting next June. The decision on who will replace Donald will be determined after the party decides the direction of its post-Donald policies. But their decision is very likely to be a bigger move to the hard left, as the biggest and most effective voice of pragmatism is no longer on the scene. McCormick

ENDS

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