Election 2020: Electoral Commission finds Jacinda Ardern 'Aroha' posters are political ads, not art

One of the posters.
One of the posters. Photo credit: Facebook/NZ Taxpayers' Union

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union is welcoming an Electoral Commission decision saying posters dedicated to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are considered political advertisements as opposed to art.

Following an investigation, the commission concluded when the "Aroha" posters are displayed in a commercial space, they're considered ads for the Labour party.

The artists, Weston Frizzell, had been selling the posters and for every one sold, would paste another for free in what it said was a "nationwide street poster campaign".

In a statement to Newshub, an Electoral Commission spokesman confirmed it had written to the artist and publisher advising them of the decision. The Taxpayers' Union first complained about the posters in May.

"Under the Electoral Act, party advertisements require a promoter statement and the written authorisation of the party," the commission spokesman said.

"We have asked the artists and publishers to come back to us on the steps they will take to comply with the requirements of the Electoral Act."

The commission said it's in ongoing discussions with the artists and publisher and is unable to comment further, adding it will provide a further statement "in due course".

But the artists have denied the posters were politically motivated, NZME reported. They wrote on their Facebook page on Tuesday saying the decision was a "massive blow for art and freedom of speech".

The Taxpayers' Union said in a statement on Tuesday it was a "relief" to have clarity.

"As a campaign organisation, we're forced to comply with strict rules around political advertising, especially in the lead-up to an election," spokesman Jordan Williams said.

"It's a matter of democratic integrity that these rules are applied equally, regardless of a campaigner's political slant.

"These posters were obviously advertisements, even if the artists didn't think of them as such.

"You can imagine a scenario where a poster of Jacinda Ardern - or Todd Muller for that matter - was on every street corner, a week out from an election. This could absolutely influence voters."

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