3 Oct 2023

Election 2023: National candidates describe threats on campaign trail

6:51 am on 3 October 2023
Siva Kilari and Mahesh Muralidhar collage.

National Party candidates Siva Kilari and Mahesh Muralidhar. Photo: SUPPLIED

National Party volunteers have stopped campaigning in Auckland's Manurewa because they have been chased down the street and threatened with abuse.

That is according to the party's candidate Siva Kilari who said some of his volunteers have been intimidated and do not want to continue campaigning.

Kilari's comments comes as multiple political parties report heightened levels of vitriol and violence this election.

Four of his volunteers have stopped door knocking, giving out flyers and putting up hoardings, while others have had to take a break, Kilari said.

"When we were door knocking in Papatoetoe, four guys abused one volunteer all the way down a driveway and said they'd punch him if he turned around.

"We were on the same street but he couldn't call us, because he was too scared to take his phone out. That volunteer has stopped coming now."

Kilari said another person told his team, "if you guys come back and door knock at our house, we'll set the dogs on you".

He had slowed down his campaign efforts after a beer was thrown on him by a gang member and many of his hoardings were damaged, he said.

His home and a farm house he owned had been broken in to, he said. He reported the break-ins to police on 8 September.

"I think I was a bit scared after that, because someone is watching me all the time. I decided to slow down my campaign. I don't want to push hard and put my life at risk. I don't like that."

Kilari said he had refocused his campaign to social media and now takes more than one person with him when door knocking.

The National Party had been very supportive about the problems he had faced while electioneering, he said.

National's Auckland Central candidate Mahesh Muralidhar said the party had provided "fantastic" advice if candidates or volunteers reported any threats.

Muralidhar was secretly filmed in a restaurant while wearing his blue National Party jacket a month ago. The video has now been shared online with a gang boss narrating over the top.

His team had also experienced cat calls and inflammatory language, he said.

"My biggest piece of advice to them is, you have not done anything wrong and if anything makes you uncomfortable please step back."

Muralidhar could not say if he or any of his volunteers had gone to police but said all complaints were communicated to National's campaign team.

The video and verbal abuse his volunteers have dealt with had not changed his campaign tactics, he said.

"I come from a minority background and I have faced enough challenges all my life. You just keep going."

Police respond to electioneering threats

Police said all reports of threats towards election candidates would be taken seriously and followed up with police action if necessary.

A spokesperson said police were regularly monitoring candidate campaign efforts and any need for police presence was made on a case-by-case basis.

They said a key focus for police over the election period was to ensure the right to freedom of expression was protected, including making sure politicians could do their work in the run-up to election day.

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