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Tension, violence and finger pointing on the election campaign trail

In brief
  • Parties report encountering anger, threats, violence and vandalising in their election campaigns.
  • Opposing parties are usually blamed. Sometimes it seems like the claims are trumped up for the sympathy vote.
  • Trans activist Eli Rubashkyn is involved in defacing election billboards after asking for leniency for throwing soup at Posie Parker.

Increased anger against politicians in election campaigns

The sitting political parties say they are encountering more anger from the public in the election campaign. There are more damaged campaign billboards than in previous elections (though it’s not clear how much is due to more billboards being erected).

Eli Rubashkyn, the trans activist charged with assault for pouring soup over Posie Parker, shared a video of defacing a billboard for fledgling party NZ Loyal. Onlookers say police reportedly drove past without reaction.

Labour candidate for Taranaki-King Country, Angela Roberts, was shaken and slapped at a candidates’ meeting. Media has not reported what her assailant said to her, except that it included education policy. Sex ed reform has riled many parents.

The National Party reports gang intimidation of their candidates and volunteers, including assaults and forced entry to a candidate’s home. Campaign chairman Chris Bishop says the Mongrel Mob is encouraging members to support Labour.

Maybe some exaggeration?

Tension and Violence in Election Campaign 2023
Damaged campaign sign. Image: TikTok

Te Pāti Māori (TPM) said their fourth ranked candidate, 20 year old Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke, had her home “invaded, vandalised, and left with a threatening letter”. A well-known National Party campaigner was accused. TPM released a statement saying “This escalation of danger is what happens when right-wing politicians race-bait and fearmonger for votes. They have emboldened this type of behaviour. Now it is time we embolden ourselves.”

Legacy media headlines widely reported this “home invasion” before National responded, saying TPM’s allegations were grossly exaggerated. They said their elderly member Graham Gunn was visiting Maipi-Clarke to congratulate her and wish her well on the campaign. Police say the incident was not a home invasion and they do not believe it was racially motivated. Nonetheless, they served the man a trespass notice. Gunn says he was invited in.

Maipi-Clarke also claimed incidents earlier in the week where her home was “ram-raided” and “vandalised”. Police clarified this was incorrectly reported and was actually the theft of an election hoarding from the property. This also happened to several other hoardings in the area, from a range of political parties. Further, they were “unable to establish any criminality” regarding the claimed burglary and threatening letter.

Tamihere says this is a whitewash and plans to lay a formal complaint against the police.

A victimhood competition?

Brent Edwards of NBR says campaign violence isn’t new, with frequent fist fights at former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s campaign meetings. “It might have been more appropriate for all political parties to get together to condemn such behaviour, rather than try to outdo one another over which parties’ candidates and volunteers have faced the worst abuse.”

Feature image: Instagram

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