Party up, the elections are here!

Have you ever had a yen for the old days? Well, I’m having one now.

With the elections coming up, I thought I might find out a bit more about the history of elections in New Zealand and it proved an interesting project. It turns out our early elections were not the staid affairs one would expect of Victorian New Zealand. In fact they were:

often colourful, noisy and drunken affairs. Candidates and their committees hired musicians, flew banners, and organised parades and banquets for their supporters.

Elections took several days, so it must have been quite a party.

Photo of crowd awaiting results of the 1919 election in Christchurch
A portion of the crowd awaiting the result of the 1919 election, the results being displayed by lantern on a board in Christchurch

Fun it may have been, but unfortunately it also went hand in hand with a bit of bribery and corruption, and in 1858 parliament set about sorting it out, implementing a series of laws to do so.

The party wasn’t over though, and election days continued to be an occasion for celebration. In 1879 in Christchurch things got right out of hand:

1500 drunken larrikins battled the city’s 33 policemen at the corner of High and Cashel streets hurling flour-bombs, firecrackers and stones.

The twentieth century is starting to sound downright sober and orderly in comparison.

Perhaps if we made it all fun again we could get the a higher turn out at our elections. A competition with booing crowds and arguing judges (political commentators) à la American Idol perhaps?

I quite like the idea of getting to boo my least favourite MP/political party/policy just like they do in parliament. Ooh and a big party in Hagley Park for the finale (election night). I can feel that election fever coming on already.

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