Immigrant voters find democracy hard to understand

By Lincoln Tan

In the electorate where immigrants and Asians outnumber New Zealand-born voters, confusion reigns.

Some voters in Botany are scared to vote against the ruling party for fear of reprisal, and others think National and New Zealand First are the same party because they both start with N.

A Herald street poll of 100 people found nine of 14 Chinese voters planned to give their party vote to Labour even though they wanted a change in government, and four who didn't think their votes were secret.

Three people said they would vote New Zealand First although their preferred Prime Minister was John Key.

One from Malaysia said he would vote NZ First because Winston Peters was in a similar position to a prominent Malaysian politician whom he also supports.

Others thought Helen Clark was standing as their Labour candidate, and not Koro Tawa, because her pictures were on the Labour Party billboards in the electorate.

Such confusion could partly explain why the poll found NZ First to have significantly higher-than-average support in Botany - at 10 per cent, it is more than twice the 3 per cent rating in other opinion polls.

Explaining why she chose NZ First for her party vote when John Key was her preferred PM, first-time voter and Chinese immigrant Doris Yu, 28, said in Mandarin: "I thought NZ First was John Key's party. It is difficult to differentiate between the two parties' logos because both NZ First and National uses the letter N ... I hope I don't make the same mistake on election day."

Another, advertising sales rep Huang I-Chia, 29, of Meadowlands, who came here as a student from Taiwan in 1994, said: "I thought John Key was the leader of NZ First."

A voter who didn't want to be identified, originally from China, said she would vote Labour because she didn't think her vote was secret.

"I am sponsoring my mother for residency and I am worried that if Labour gets re-elected, the Immigration Department will reject my application," she said in Mandarin.

Manying Ip, an associate professor of Asian studies at Auckland University, says many Chinese immigrants struggle to understand democracy.

"They don't believe it when they are told they can vote for whoever they like, and even the more intelligent people from the mainland really fear the Government," she said.

The poll found National candidate Pansy Wong to be the clear favourite for MP, with 52 supporting, compared to only 13 who said they will be voting for Koro Tawa and eight for former Act MP Kenneth Wang.

The party vote shows a much closer fight between the big two - with 40 supporting National and 32 for Labour.

- NZ Herald

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