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Activism and Politics
New Zealand Re-Elects Incumbent, Snowden Sighs

John Key’s National Party won the elections in a landslide in New Zealand over the weekend, propelling his government into a third term with an unprecedented parliamentary majority.

New Zealand appears to have been a target for the Greenwald/Snowden set, who coalesced around the upstart “Internet Party”, founded and financed by the notorious German pirate expat fugitive Kim Dotcom. Hoping to make progress toward shutting one of the so called “five eyes” of the Anglosphere intelligence alliance, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald appeared (via video link) at a live campaign rally last week, urging New Zealanders to vote against Key, who they claim mislead them about the extent of the surveillance the state was undertaking (a charge Key repeatedly denied).

New Zealanders shrugged, and delivered a drubbing not just to Dotcom’s party (which failed to get even one seat in parliament) but also to left-leaning parties perceived as sympathetic to the internet activists. The New York Times:

“I take full responsibility for this loss tonight, because the brand — the brand Kim Dotcom — was poison for what we were trying to achieve,” he told reporters. “I did not see that before, and it only became apparent to me in the last couple of weeks.” Mr. Dotcom put at least $2.9 million into the Internet Party since May 26, according to Electoral Commission records.

A co-leader of the Green Party, Russel Norman, said Mr. Dotcom’s presence in the election had tarnished left-leaning parties like his. The Green Party won just 10 percent of the vote, down from 11 percent in 2011.

“I did say that to Kim Dotcom,” he said. “Remember, I did say a long time ago that it was a bad idea. But anyway, there you go.”

As the WSJ points out, the election ended up being mostly about rewarding Key’s National Party for the solid economic performance New Zealand has been enjoying since the global financial crisis roiled markets. But it won’t go unnoticed that the surveillance issues not only gained little traction but actually seemed to hurt the opposition. Privacy and governmental overreach will no doubt continue to be important issues, but they may not be as potent as the activists would like to believe.

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