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Eight MPs of Asian descent to represent their communities in Parliament

By Gaurav Sharma

(above:) Carlos Cheung, National party. Carlos Cheung will be the only Chinese-origin MP in Parliament over the next three years. Photo: RNZ / Blessen Tom

Eight politicians of Asian descent will represent their communities in the next parliamentary term – the same number as the MPs of Asian origin who became lawmakers after the 2017 and 2020 elections.

Carlos Cheung, who defeated popular Labour MP Michael Wood in Auckland’s Mt Roskill, will be the only Chinese-origin MP in Parliament over the next three years.

Ranked number 33 on Labour’s party list, Naisi Chen has missed out this time.

Although special votes have traditionally not favoured right-leaning parties, Cheung increased his majority in the final count to 1,565 votes from the 1,429-majority recorded after the preliminary count on election night.

With his victory, Cheung has become the second-ever electorate MP of Chinese-origin – 15 years after Pansy Wong won the newly created Botany electorate in 2008.

Rounding off National’s Asian representation, Cheung will be joined in the Beehive by Korean-origin Melissa Lee, who has been an MP since 2008, and Paulo Garcia, who traces his origins to the Philippines.

Lee stood against Labour’s Helen White in Mt Albert and lost by the narrowest margin of 20 votes. The National Party has confirmed it will seek a recount in the seat. Nevertheless, Lee enters Parliament on her high list ranking of 13.

Garcia, who has enjoyed a short stint as New Zealand’s first-ever Filipino list MP between 2019 and 2020, has created history by becoming the first MP of Filipino origin to win an electorate seat. He defeated Labour’s Deborah Russell in New Lynn by a margin of 1,013 votes.

Turning to the Labour Party, Ayesha Verrall, who led the health ministry in Chris Hipkins’ administration, is returning to Parliament. She was placed seventh on her party list and didn’t stand in an electorate. Her family comes from the Maldives.

Meanwhile, one of the two Indian-origin MPs in the Beehive for the next three years will be Labour’s Priyanca Radhakrishnan. An MP since 2017, she remains a law-maker courtesy of her list ranking of 15 after losing her electorate seat of Maungakiekie to National.

In 2020, she became the first-ever MP of Indian-origin to win an electorate seat – alongside former Labour MP Gaurav Sharma, who won Hamilton West. Later in the term, she also went on to become New Zealand’s first-ever Indian-origin Cabinet minister.

Rounding up Indian representation in the next government is the ACT Party’s Parmjeet Parmar, who is the lone Asian representative in her party’s caucus.

Parmar, who was a list MP from National between 2014 and 2020, is entering the Beehive again in ACT colours courtesy of her list ranking of nine.

Lastly, the Green Party, which has enjoyed its best-ever election result with 11.6 percent of the vote and 15 MPs in Parliament, is sending two persons of Asian origin to the Beehive.

One is experienced former Iranian refugee Golriz Ghahraman, who will start her third term as a lawmaker. Another is first-time MP Lan Pham, who is of Vietnamese descent and lives in Christchurch.

Both Pham and Ghahraman are entering Parliament because of their high list rankings of six and seven respectively.

  • – Published with special permission for RNZ.
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