New Zealand to limit foreign political donations to $33

The New Zealand flag flutters outside Parliament buildings in Wellington in Wellington
The new measures are being introduced ahead of next year’s general election

New Zealand will ban large foreign political donations and anonymous online advertisements amid concerns over outside interference in next year’s general election.

New legislation will reduce the limit for overseas donations from NZ$1,500 ($975; £750) to $33.

Online advertisements will have to show the details of who paid for them.

Officials did not say which countries prompted the move, but experts believe China’s activities were the catalyst.

The country will go the polls in late 2020, when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern from the Labour Party is expected to seek a second term.

“The risk of foreign interference in elections is a growing international phenomenon and can take many forms, including donations,” Justice Minister Andrew Little said in a statement. “New Zealand is not immune from this risk.”

The UK blocks foreign donations over £500 while Australia limits them to A$1,000 ($685; £527).

Media captionHow election campaigns could target you online

The new legislation, introduced by the government in Parliament on Tuesday, also requires that the names and addresses of those paying for political advertisements in all mediums should accompany them.

The move, Mr Little said, aimed to reduce the “avalanche of fake-news social-media ads” seen in other countries’ elections. The measures need to be approved by Parliament, where the governing coalition has a majority.

The minister cited a Canadian intelligence report, published earlier this year, which said cyber-attacks targeted half the national elections held in major democracies in 2018.

In April, New Zealand’s intelligence chief, Rebecca Kitteridge, said there were concerns about activities by foreign state actors, adding that outside interference in the country’s election was possible.

Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia carried out a campaign of cyber-attacks and fake news stories planted on social media to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Russia has denied any wrongdoing.

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