Democracy Dotcom

Although not as high-profile or provocative as this week’s other political poll, New Zealand’s upcoming election has nevertheless found it’s way onto the world media’s radar. Suddenly, in an election that seemed a shoe-in for John Key, the incumbent National Party Prime Minister, damning documents suggest he signed off on covert government surveillance, and supported the NSA’s global encroachment.

So how did these documents come to light, five days before the general election?  The story starts with Kim Dotcom, the hacker, embezzler and entrepreneur behind file sharing site Mega and Megaupload. Dotcom is currently residing in New Zealand, whilst fighting extradition to the US on copyright infringement charges. Not content with driving tractors and flying his plane upside down, Dotcom has also founded and funded a political party – The Internet Party. Latest opinion polls suggest the party hold only 1% of total votes, but Dotcom could still pose a serious threat to John Key, after holding a blockbuster press conference on Monday.  The event, titled ‘The Moment of Truth,’ played host to the infamous figureheads of net security, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who video-conferenced in using Dotcom’s soon-to-launch encrypted browser-based platform (in a spot of product placement brilliance). Snowden warned New Zealanders that he had personally searched their internet use, announcing “If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched.” He also revealed the NZ government had planned to implement a secret mass-surveillance program named ‘Speargun,’ and that NSA facilities already operated in Auckland.

Key is currently pleading innocence, despite Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald’sunrelenting questioning. Yesterday Greenwald suggested that New Zealand’s foreign spy agency (Government Communications Security Bureau) was not only spying on New Zealand, but also their allies, and that the most important takeout from all the recent revelations is that the government knowingly duped the entire country.  “….Prime Minister Key overtly misled the public about what this new spying bill achieved…they (the government) knew that if they admitted what they in private were acknowledging…New Zealander’s would never have allowed that bill to pass.”

So, it’s all over for John Key right? Wrong. Despite the revelations, current sentiment seems to suggest that New Zealander’s will vote for him regardless. His National party is sitting comfortably in the lead with 46.5% of votes.  Is it because the majority of citizens do not understand the issues and implications surrounding government surveillance? Or is it simply because the average citizen living in a democracy still trusts their government to know what’s best for national security? Regardless, when the votes come in this Saturday, New Zealanders won’t be the only ones watching.