The far right in the 2023 general election

Amongst the parties who vied for our votes in Aotearoa’s October 2023 general election, not a single one represented the working class against capitalism. However, this does not in any way mean all of the options were equally bad or that the various potential outcomes of the election were irrelevant. Beyond the obvious battle between the large parties, there were a number of small parties who represented deeply conservative and extremely right-wing ideas. Sometimes they dress up their rhetoric with language appropriated from the left: concern about communities, desire for well-being, and so forth. But make no mistake their politics represent individualism, competition, hierarchy, and exclusion. Let’s take a moment to consider Aotearoa’s spectrum of Christian right to fascist small parties, and how those parties have fared, using preliminary voting figures from the Electoral Commission. Special votes were uncounted at the time of writing.

The New Conservatives party was registered in 2011, and has since attempted to re-brand itself several times. Explicitly in favour of “entrepreneurial spirit” and “small businesses”, and unashamedly opposed to abortion rights, queerness, and other “dangerous left wing ideologies” (their words), this party lives up to its name as an example of deep, and dangerous, conservatism. 

Other similar small parties are the recently registered New Nation Party, NewZeal (formerly registered in 2020 as ONE Party), and Democracy NZ (registered in 2022). These parties’ websites are littered with statements denouncing “race-based policies” (dog-whistling opposition to Te Tiriti); with gestures to farm business owners about removing environmental taxes or other controls; and with statements about family values (dog-whistling opposition to the LGBTQI+ community). All of these parties are positioned against the collective working class, while simultaneously wielding pseudo-leftist language aimed to appeal to and mislead our class. For example, from the DemocracyNZ website: “Our policies […] will be developed with people – for people.” NewZeal saw its party vote grow slightly, from 8,121 in 2020 to 12,599 in 2023, but the New Conservatives saw their party vote fall dramatically from 42,613 in 2020 to just 3,587 in 2023. These two right-wing Christian parties achieved a combined total of less than 1 percent of party votes.

Further to the right of the New Conservatives and NewZeal are Vision New Zealand and Freedoms New Zealand. Vision New Zealand was registered as a party late in 2019, and only received a fraction of a percent of the party vote in the 2020 general election. Led by Hannah Tamaki of Destiny Church, Vision New Zealand presents similar policies to New Conservatives and NewZeal, but presented with greater intensity and threat. 

Vision wields the misinformed demand “Stop grooming our children” against the queer community – a queer-phobic demand in its implication that any acknowledgement of gender and sexuality diversity is tantamount to abuse. Vision New Zealand also participates in and promotes the recurring anti-abortion March for Life rally.

Destiny Church has a propaganda group, Man Up, notorious for demonstrating outside the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. Women’s Refuge raised concerns about their misogynistic programme. Destiny Church took part in the 2022 occupation of Parliament Grounds in protest at the government’s public health approach to COVID-19. 

Freedoms New Zealand is a coalition consisting of Vision New Zealand, NZ Outdoors & Freedom Party and Rock the Vote NZ. The leaders of this amalgam for the general election were Destiny Church’s Brian Tamaki and conspiracy theorist Sue Grey. They must be bitterly disappointed that their coalition could muster only 0.31 percent of the party vote.

The notorious fascist and conspiracist opinion platform Counterspin Media threw its support behind a last-minute party registration called New Zealand Loyal. This fascist party is intensely in favour of private property rights and unrestricted gun ownership. Their single-sentence policies touch on several conspiracy theories including globalist influence, water fluoridation and a plan to “Criminally investigate all who have acted against the people of NZ.” Despite the absurdity of their policies, New Zealand Loyal gained 1.15 percent of the party vote: a concern. 

The remaining far-right groups, consisting of the newly-formed, anti-transgender front group Women’s Rights Party, the Leighton Baker Party, and the New Nation Party, garnered a combined total of a mere 0.21 percent of the party vote. 

In total, the far right achieved 2.62 percent of the 2023 party vote. While this total was down from just over 3 percent in 2020, the 2023 results show a shift of support within the far right overall from the least extreme to the most extreme. This is represented by the collapse of support for the New Conservatives and the rise of New Zealand Loyal. 

The overall totals mask the far right’s strong performance in some electorates. In 6 electorates New Zealand Loyal obtained over 1,000 candidate votes. In 11 electorates far-right candidates combined got over 4 percent. In Northland the two far-right candidates got 11 percent of the vote.

None of the far-right groups achieved a seat in Parliament this term, but they were a visible participant in the election, in contrast to the complete absence of the far left. The far right should not be under-estimated. They are a threat: a threat, however, that can be contained by the emergence of a strong left that can offer an alternative vision for a socialist Aotearoa.