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Asia's democratic lesson for NZ

7 3 0

OPINION: Over the centuries, millions of people have fought and died for the right to even hold elections.

Yet here in New Zealand, it is hard to get people to spare 15 minutes every three years to tick a couple of boxes. And it is easy to take for granted that this is all that is needed for a functioning democracy.

I was posted to Rome as a diplomat in the 2000s and remember being struck by how differently people view elections and the act of casting a vote.

Discussing whether Turkey should be allowed to join the European Union, I was asked very seriously if I had forgotten all about the 1683 Battle of Vienna when Ottoman troops entered Austrian territory but were ultimately defeated. EU admission would undermine that 'great victory'.

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It occurred to me that in Europe elections were often focused on righting past wrongs, which is quite different to New Zealand where elections are focused on promises of the future.

2019 is a big year for elections in Asia.

Despite my years........

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