As two older, White, male candidates fought for supremacy in the United States election, New Zealand was offering its electorate a more progressive choice: two White women.
But in New Zealand, that was just the start.
When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was reelected in a landslide last month, she brought with her a diverse cast of politicians that make up what is — by some measures — the most inclusive parliament in the world.
Almost half of New Zealand’s newly sworn-in Parliament are women and 11% are openly LGBTQ. Both New Zealand’s Indigenous Māori and people with Pacific Island heritage are represented at a slightly higher rate than in the general population.
New Zealand’s Parliament is now the best in the world for LGBTQ representation
Politicians from diverse backgrounds aren’t just making up numbers in Parliament — they’re in key positions of power.
Eight of Ardern’s 20-strong cabinet — the highest-ranked lawmakers — are also women, and a quarter are Māori. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson will be the first openly gay politician to hold that role in New Zealand. And foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta, who wears a moko kauae or traditional Māori face tattoo, is the first Indigenous woman in New Zealand’s history to represent the country in that position.
“It looks like New Zealand looks,” said Jennifer Curtin, a professor of politics and director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland, of the country’s government. “We’re not male, pale and stale anymore.”
Here’s what New Zealand’s new Parliament looks like
New Zealand already had a relatively diverse Parliament. Following the 2017 election, 38% of New Zealand’s MPs were women — a record in the country. Now it’s 48%.
The proportion of openly LGBTQ lawmakers has also increased from 7% to 11%.
Māori representation has slipped, however, from 23% at the last election to 21%. That’s the lowest level of Māori representation since 2014, but it is still higher than the total proportion of people who identify as Māori in the general population — around 17%.