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There may be no dancing Cossacks this time around but New Zealand’s election campaign has made a list of the world’s ugliest.
The dubious honour, awarded by political website foreignpolicy.com, mentions New Zealand alongside such bastions of democracy as Nigeria, Russia, Austria and Taiwan.
And we can thank New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and internet hackers for the achievement.
“The prospect of a transfer of power has contributed to an uncharacteristically bitter campaign,” the site opines, adding, “Third-party politicians, whose support is usually required to form a government, have been responsible for much of the vitriol."
Mr Peters “has attacked both sides,” saying Labour’s free trade deal with China had gone “as sour as the milk in their baby products,” while calling John Key a ‘greedy merchant banker.”
But according to the site, “New Zealand’s true innovation in mudslinging, however, has been electronic.
“Thanks to a “Google bombing” campaign by Labour Party supporters, a Web search on google.co.nz for the word “clueless” returns John Key’s website as the top result.
“National Party supporters retaliated, causing a search for “Labour-funded lackeys” to turn up a link to a pro-Labour newspaper.”
This pales in comparison to some of the goings-on in the other elections, however.
Nigeria’s election last year was described as being “comically flawed,” while Taiwanese campaigning “has historically had the feeling of a barroom brawl.”
Far-right Austrian politician Heinz-Christian Strache complained of Islamic dress-wearing women running around “like female ninjas” and vowed to stop Austrian girls being “fondled by hordes of immigrants.”
Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky pulled out a rifle and shot a cardboard cutout of soon-to-be President Dmitry Medvedev at a campaign rally.
And the dirty campaigning has made it into print.
Why Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua (ie: A Pathological Liar, Hypocrite and Usurper) and the Satanic and Corrupt People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Must Go Now is a book published by the “Save Nigeria Campaign Organisation,” which supports rival Nigerian party the Action Congress.
It is a welcome reminder that New Zealand has a long way to go to reach the pinnacle of political ugliness.