For days after New Zealand’s national elections on November 27, cannabis activists chewed their joints like cigars, waiting to see if the Green Party, with their pro-decriminalization stance, would make it into New Zealand’s parliament. With the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (ALCP) out of the running, hopes for a strong parliamentary voice against the drug war seemed to rest with the Greens.
Three days before the election, Nandor Tanzcos ? a core Norml activist, a Green Party candidate, and a Rastafarian with elephantine dreads ? seemed assured that he would have a seat in the new government, becoming the world’s first Rasta MP.
“I don’t want to be overconfident, but it does look very likely,” said Nandor Tanzcos in an interview with Cannabis Culture. “The green party is polling around six to seven percent of the votes. That gives us nine MP’s and I am number five on the list.”
But after the initial votes had been counted, the Greens hadn’t won a single seat. Even the Green Party leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons, had finished just behind the prohibitionist National Party candidate, Murray McLean, in the Coromandel electorate.
The Greens also lost out in the party vote. The party vote is a special feature of New Zealand politics. When “kiwis” – as New Zealanders are affectionately called – go to vote, they get to vote twice. They vote once for the candidates in their electorates, like other parliamentary democracies around the world. Then they vote again for a party, so if there is support for a party, but it is spread around the country so thinly that their candidates don’t stand a chance in any particular electorate, a party can still make it into government. In the 1999 election, 5% of the party votes ensured any political party 6 seats in parliament.
After the initial votes had been counted, the Greens had won a harrowing 4.9% of the party vote. But the “special” votes ? which includes those not listed in the electoral rosters ? would not be fully counted until December 7.
When the special votes finally came in, the Greens had skipped to a surprise victory. In the Coromandel electorate, Jeanette Fitzsimons moved ahead to win her seat by only 116 votes, with over 30,000 votes counted. The Greens had also captured 5.3% of the party vote, propelling Rasta Nandor Tanzcos and 6 of his Green collegues into parliament.
“Labour has 49 seats and the Alliance has 10,” Green leader Jeanette Fitzsimons told Cannabis Culture. “So the Labour/Alliance coalition government has 59 seats altogether. They have formed a minority government, and they need our vote and votes from somewhere else in the house to get legislation through.”
Fitzsimons seems confident that a change in the drug laws is near.
“Helen Clark has said there will be some kind of parliamentary review of the crimes act,” said Ms Fitzsimons. “We will be insisting that Nandor, our justice spokesman, be a member of that review team.”