Election vandals defacing democracy

MICHAEL CUMMINGS - EDITOR
Last updated 12:00 06/08/2014

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OPINION: Election season can be a nauseating experience for people; a couple of months every three years where political tensions are at their peak and voters are bombarded with promises, appeals and catchy slogans.

One could be forgiven for wanting to shut themselves away for a few a weeks, until it's all over.

We should stop and remind ourselves, though, that a healthy democracy is a noisy one. The battle of ideas should be fought passionately, and in a spirit that those who have fought in defence of our democratic freedoms would be proud of. What they wouldn't be proud of, and what all New Zealanders of every political persuasion should condemn, is the seemingly organised destruction of election hoardings that is occurring in Palmerston North.

As reported in today's Manawatu Standard, National party stalwart and former candidate, Malcolm Plimmer, says the party has seen about 100 of its election hoardings destroyed or defaced in recent days. Plimmer says it's the worst spate of vandalism he's seen directed at hoardings during his 47 years of involvement with politics in the city.

Labour's candidate for Palmerston North and sitting MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, says he's also seen a noticeable increase in the level of vandalism directed at his signage compared with his two previous campaigns.

Candidates accept that there will always be isolated acts of idiocy when temporary signs are erected in public places, and they factor that into their planning. What they shouldn't have to accept, though, is vandalism as an organised political tactic executed by people who support their opponent. Unfortunately, it appears that is what's happening in Palmerston North.

Say what you like about politicians, but it takes immense courage and personal fortitude to stand for public office. They give up huge amounts of time to campaign, face intense, often vicious, public scrutiny, and in the end most of them are unsuccessful. It's easy to fling mud from the sidelines, but it takes guts to stick your head above the parapet and speak out for what you believe in.

Naturally, we don't have to like each and every candidate, but each of them deserve respect for engaging in a process that ultimately benefits us all. Tearing down their signs in the dark of night to undermine their efforts is therefore not just an attack on an individual or a political party, it's an attack on our nation's democracy.

ONE MORE THING

Speaking of participating in democracy, are you enrolled to vote? You have to be on the roll by August 20 or you'll have to cast a special vote. To check if you're on the roll, visit a PostShop or go to elections.org.nz.

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- Manawatu Standard

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