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Covid-19 has led to 'most underwhelming election campaign' - political commentator

Despite Election 2020 proving to be one of the most important in recent history, political commentator Claire Robinson says the Covid-19 pandemic has sapped the energy of both voters and parties. 

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Energy is low among voters and parties because of the election’s delay, according to professor Claire Robinson. Source: Breakfast

A professor of communication design at Massey University, Robinson told TVNZ1’s Breakfast people were more concerned about their health during the pandemic. 

She said it didn’t help that the major parties were campaigning on “very similar” policy platforms. 

“I think people don’t have enough headspace to be able to really delve into the differences between two parties,” she said. 

Robinson said the poor economic outlook also made it hard for people to get excited, because they would start asking whether it really mattered who they voted for because they would face the same challenges in the long-term. 

“What we really need at this time is to be having a national discussion about the type of New Zealand we want to be once we leave the immediate parts of the crisis,” she said.

“That’s not what the politicians are focused on - at least the major parties.”

This meant that people, more than ever before, shouldn’t write off minor parties’ ideas because they were the ones “really thinking outside of the box”, Robinson said.

“There should be many more opportunities for the smaller, the ‘outlier’, parties to be able to be heard and seen.”

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On top of that, with the second lockdown interrupting campaigning, it was hard for political parties to gain momentum and get people engaged, Robinson said.

“[It's] the most underwhelming election campaign I think I’ve experienced in my lifetime at one of the most important moments in history, which makes it very strange.”

She said there was a chance National and some minor parties could gain more support because of the second lockdown. But, she said, the negativity of the debate about the pandemic response did little to motivate people ahead of the election. 

“What the Opposition parties are doing is saying, ‘Labour’s done a really bad job of managing the containment [of Covid-19], managing the borders. If we were in this position we would have done better.’

“I don’t think so. Basically, as a country, we didn’t have the systems in place to be able to do it.

"National would have been in exactly the same place. It’s just that they have the luxury of not having to have so much direct responsibility.”

Robinson added: “When it’s so negative, when you’re just talking about everybody doing things wrong and how bad things are… it just saps people’s enthusiasm and energy.”