Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: MMP Review #1: The Party Vote Threshold

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  • Steven Peters, in reply to BenWilson,

    Since the 1980s, NZ has had a neoliberals of various flavours. It’s something that the people, in sufficient numbers, still think is a good idea.

    "I’ll be surprised if National can possibly remain so popular, whilst making no improvements whatsoever in practically any measure of governance. It’s quite mystifying, really.."

    Are you sure you are not a Labour man, Ben?

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    If the threshold was 2%, that is where all votes were closer to being equal, then our democracy would truly start to evolve, on steroids!

    I think we should lower the threshold, but I don't think the results will be instant or massive. Switching to MMP in the first place was a far, far more massive shift - I already did the maths for you on how much that increased representation outside of National/Labour. That shift will absolutely dwarf anything that might come from dropping the threshold, even all the way to zero. There aren't 30% more people out there champing at the bit to install parties that currently get nothing. I'd be amazed if even a threshold of zero would increase the non-National/Labour vote more than 10%. Between them, they got over 75% of the votes cast, and there's no way under PR you can slice and dice that to stop those two parties totally dominating the political scene.

    The massive shift to MMP didn't cause a giant upsetting in the power structures - it just forced in more diversity, more representation of minority interests. That could and should be furthered, but I'm not expecting everything to be peaches after that. I actually disagree with most minority interests, for starters. They're highly likely to just choose a side and play the same old game, indeed much more likely than a substantial minor party like the Greens or NZF. In that game they will get their key concessions, but absolutely will not get their whole manifesto. So radical change is not really likely, just stepwise change.

    It's ironic, to me, that democracy is such a conservative system.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Are you sure you are not a Labour man, Ben?

    Pretty damn. I've always been a swing voter.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to BenWilson,

    Maybe that is the difference in our perspectives Ben, although we both share the view re the PVT.
    For me, I don't care if even God Herself said that lowering the threshold won't make a difference to the voting landscape (no offense). Its not relevant, IMHO. The important thing is that the voters (whom democracy is meant to serve) have a choice, and that the political market place provide that choice, rather than deem them too insignificant to participate as equals, and their particular political aspirations, and representation, literally don't count. That said, some threshold is necessary, but not 5, or even 4%. Too high.

    I mean, in a similar vein, its like the UN saying that only countries with over 4 million people can be a member, to prevent fragmentation.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Maybe that is the difference in our perspectives Ben, although we both share the view re the PVT.

    What are you referring to, when you say "that" in this sentence? I'm still not sure we differ on anything to do with policy at all. I think dropping the PVT would be good. Completely removing it would be better. But I don't think the outcome will be a huge minor party revolution. It will just be further broadening of representation. I'm not even convinced that wouldn't come at a cost - from what I see, becoming more democratic has made the country change slower. On social policy, this isn't so bad, so long as each step is progressive. Mostly, it has been, and indeed those steps have been mostly bi-partisan in effect, even if there was heated debate at the time. On economic policy, I'd generally say a slow moving system is good, except in times of crisis. Unfortunately, we're in one of those times. However, I still think, just on the angle of the right to be represented, that the PVT should go. Solving the economic madness of now is something that the whole population has to come to terms with.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to BenWilson,

    "The massive shift to MMP didn’t cause a giant upsetting in the power structures – it just forced in more diversity, more representation of minority interests".

    Agree with the former, disagree with the latter. To me, diversity isn't a smattering of basically centrist parties- Act, Dunne, NZF. The Greens will move closer to the centre, to capture more votes, and get into government. The future of the Maori Party precarious, and indeed, of the Maori seats.
    Unlike yourself, I am not particular bothered if they abolish the one seat threshold, although I agree it is a safety valve, if quirky, and it has contra indications. It was a bad idea from the start, just copying Germany's desire to preserve the strong regional votes of Bavaria. They should have simply opted for a lower threshold.

    More voices in parliament changes its very 'nature' , because these voices are able to be heard,and become part of a 'collective conscience' (Emile Durkheim). parliament is the collective expression of the community it is (supposed) to represent - is a community of minds itself, the symbolic expression of the wider one, integrates the fragments into a single whole. Just as the UN general assembly included all the worlds nations, it symbolized a new world community, albeit flawed. Before that, there wasn't one, just separate nations who were unconnected. Inclusion connects people into a community where all members, even the 'very small' have something in common that they wish to preserve. Sometimes the smallest voices are the ones that need to be heard, and and the voiceless, even more so. In stands to reason that the smallest voices will try and speak for the voiceless.
    For example, In our parliament currently, children and youth are for all intents, voiceless (25% of population approx under 16). They have no direct representatives in their own right, or adults speaking specifically for them. If this were to come about, it would be a barometer of genuine democratic change IMHO. Is this desirable? Why? How might this be facilitated, under our current MMP system.
    Any views on this folks?

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    To me, diversity isn't a smattering of basically centrist parties-

    Nor me. I'm referring to the way that under MMP we got our first female PMs, tripled the number of Maori representatives, tripled the Pacific Islanders, got our first Chinese reps (on the list, couldn't happen in FPP), and even got a transsexual MP, and a Rastafarian. A lot of this was in the two big parties. These were good things.

    The UN is an interesting model, but it's not a nation, and doesn't face the problems that nations face. Parliament has to actually decide things, and then act on them. A Parliamentary system can be judged somewhat on it's ability to do both of these things (there are other criteria, obviously).

    Is this desirable? Why? How might this be facilitated, under our current MMP system.

    To me it's virtually insoluble. We have to trust that adults speak for children. It might be a very interesting thing to collect data on, though, what the opinions of children are on a number of political issues.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    You cite some individual members of some of the different groups in NZ who have gone into parliament. But they are generally members of parties dominated by groups to whom they do not belong, to whom they owe first loyalty, and rely on their continued patronage. I want to see those groups represented in their own right - such as a Pacific Island Party, Asian Party, Rainbow Party.

    The United nations is a community, the general assembly is a house of representatives, just as nations are communities, and parliament is a house of reps. Same processes apply. I am sure the United Nations are making decisions every day. Not only that, their guiding principles (human rights) have some moral worth, whereas those of nations generally represent the interests of their dominant groups.

    What adults are speaking for children, Paula Bennett?
    Short of children having the vote, with a lower threshold, there could emerge a Children and Youth Party. There may be sufficient voters who believe they should have a voice in parliament to directly represent their interests - instead of relying on trust, or rather, hope.
    From our discussion have come to the view that the lower the PV threshold, the better. I am more strongly of the view the OST should go.
    .

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Same processes apply. I am sure the United Nations are making decisions every day. Not only that, their guiding principles (human rights) have some moral worth, whereas those of nations generally represent the interests of their dominant groups.

    You are aware of the UN Security Council, right? The UN isn't really a good model for a working democratic system. Unless you think that our government should have 5 powerful members who can veto anything Parliament comes up with, for all time, and that General Assembly representation should be equal between countries with populations less than 100,000 and countries with over a billion people. So some people should get ten thousand times as many votes as other people when selecting representatives.

    It's a place where people talk, not a Parliament. Things the UN decides do not become the law of anywhere. Their idea of decisive action is to write sternly worded letters to heads of nations.

    I don't think I'll continue the debate about children. It's too massive and not really on topic for this thread.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    "under MMP we got our first female PMs, tripled the number of Maori representatives, tripled the Pacific Islanders, got our first Chinese reps (on the list, couldn’t happen in FPP), and even got a transsexual MP, and a Rastafarian. A lot of this was in the two big parties. These were good things".

    How is it that MMP was responsible for our two female MP's. Helen Clark was implacably anti- MMP..
    You seem to confuse the term 'representatives' , with the notion of Maori MPs, Pacific Island MP's etc.
    Just because an MP happens to be a PI, for ex, doesn't mean he represents the PI constituency. There is no such identifiable constituency, for the simple reason that there is not a party that claims to represent PI's, a party which seeks to attract voters of same and represent them. Just because an MP happens to be a Pacific Islander, doesn't make him a representative of Pacific Islanders, or a Maori MP, like Winston P, a representative of the Maori constituency.
    There is no MP in parliament representing the LBGT constituency, and never has been, because there is no party explicitly claiming to do so.
    Even Ministers of Maori Affairs, as pointed out by The Royal Commission, "were often forced to sacrifice or compromise Maori interests to the electoral concerns of the party they represented". I thin k the work I am looking for is autonomy, not patronage.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Just because an MP happens to be a Pacific Islander, doesn't make him a representative of Pacific Islanders

    Sure. But they've got a lot more chance than non-PIs.

    I don't think your analysis of what it takes to be a representative makes sense. It's not only what the party says that is important. What the people in it say matters, as does who they are, what they have done, etc. Otherwise they might as well not even tell anyone who they are, just issue some doco on their plans and leave it at that. Clearly, it doesn't work that way.

    I know it doesn't fit your narrative to suggest that National and Labour don't solely represent one specific demographic, but that's just how it is. They are voted for by all stripes so they have try to represent them as well. It was easier before MMP for them to represent only the hegemony, but since then they face the problem that failing to give some internal representation to diverse groups means that those groups can splinter off and form viable parties. So they get people from every substantial minority. Which is and will continue to be a good effect of MMP.

    Now that doesn't mean those groups now have massive power. They are still minorities. Even with perfect representation their wishes can be ignored. No system can change that.

    Furthermore, being part of a group that has been excluded from power does not mean that you must form a new party to get power for that group. Women form half of the population, but there is no Women's Party that has got any seats, even though they have a potential demographic bigger than any other party. This is because women have managed, by working within the major party system, to increase their influence. To say this can't happen is flying in the face of the fact that most of the time under MMP the most powerful person in the country was a woman.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes the Security Council is in urgent need of reform, as is common knowledge. But like any established system of power, will not be easy. Yes I believe that all nations in the UN General Assembly should have one equal vote each, as they do.

    It is not correct to say that matters 'talked about' at the United Nations do not become law. There are many international treaties that are part of international law, and its human rights declarations and covenants also pass into national law, sometimes word for word.The European Parliament is modeled on Human rights charters, and it enacts binding laws. So too the International Criminal Court is a UN Body. Besides, there is something much more important than positive law (from parliament) - what should lie at the basis of all stautes, that is , moral principles. That is what the United Nations has done, provided a forum for the constitution of moral laws, ie..or human rights.

    The Childrens Party is not a big issue at all, just the same as any other party which wishes to form itself to represent a particular constituency, but will drop the topic, as you wish..

    I don't believe minority groups in the big parties can break off and form viable new parties. The pv threshold is to high to be viable.
    As the Royal Commission pointed out, " any democratic political system should value minority representation. If a minority happens to be an ethnic group, then ethnic representation in the legislature should also be valued...for parties representing national minorities ..." (para 3.47) Parties, not individual MP's who are "ethnic". Ones ethnicity is not a claim for representing an ethnic group.

    Yes someone may seek to form a 'Women's Party', if the threshold was lower, it might be viable. yes women have increased their presence in the halls of power, but how has that translated into equality for women?

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    But like any established system of power, will not be easy.

    Or indeed, might not ever happen. The need for this has been urgent for 50 years now.

    Yes I believe that all nations in the UN General Assembly should have one equal vote each, as they do.

    I didn't question that, I question whether it's a useful model for a democratic nation.

    That is what the United Nations has done, provided a forum for the constitution of moral laws, ie..or human rights.

    Yup, it's a forum, not a parliament. This is also a forum and some of the things we discuss pass into law. Eventually, if the actual governments decide to do so.

    I don't believe minority groups in the big parties can break off and form viable new parties. The pv threshold is to high to be viable.

    Except...it has happened several times. They just have to win an electorate.

    As the Royal Commission pointed out... Ones ethnicity is not a claim for representing an ethnic group.

    I'm not sure you're reading that correctly, and would still disagree with it, even if you are. One's ethnicity is surely one of the most important factors in deciding whether one represents an ethnicity. It's not sufficient, sure, indeed there is no quality that makes a person a sufficient representative of anyone except themselves. But it's a very, very good start.

    Yes someone may seek to form a 'Women's Party', if the threshold was lower, it might be viable.

    women have increased their presence in the halls of power, but how has that translated into equality for women?

    While I think equality is a good thing, it's never been the stated purpose of the electoral system to achieve it. There's never been any guarantee that being able to elect a representative that represents you will improve your lot. The electoral system can aim only for equality of representation, it's up to the representatives (and everyone else, for that matter) to be seeking other kinds of equality.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    "Or indeed, might not ever happen. The need for this has been urgent for 50 years now".
    It will happen. I am aware of the continuing calls for reform of the UN security council, but am not aware that it has been 'urgent' for 50years. In the last 20years, the security council has proved impotent time and again to act against gross abuses of human rights, and is losing its losing its legitimacy within the UN, the community of nations, and civil society. This undermines the legitimacy of the UN system, and hence its continued existence. I don't see a ground swell for the abandonment of the UN system, but I do for the security council.

    "I didn’t question that, I question whether it’s a useful model for a democratic nation"

    I think one equal vote per individual participant in national elections is an excellent model for democratic nations.

    "Yup, it’s a forum, not a parliament. This is also a forum and some of the things we discuss pass into law. Eventually, if the actual governments decide to do so.

    OK, its a forum. But if the governments decide to pass regardless of what the view of the wider forum is, they don't have much future.

    "Except…it has happened several times. They just have to win an electorate".
    Electorates are first past the post - I though you were pro MMP?. Parties shouldn't have to win lotto to get into the house, and if the Electoral Commissions views, and the public's, are heeded, it will no longer be possible (unless you win lotto, and it stays around for a while, but ultimately, it isn't MMP, and will go, because it will keep on creating unfairness in election results).

    "One’s ethnicity is surely one of the most important factors in deciding whether one represents an ethnicity"
    Hell no. I do not believe claiming or belonging to a particular ethnicity, is sufficient grounds to believe that someone 'represents members of this ethnicity'. That is a very dangerous assumption to make, IMHO. The most crucial factor, and arguably the only genuinely democratic one, is when "a pol. party claims that they seek to represent the interests and aspirations of (our) ethnic group", and then see what sort of support they get. In this country, it would be very difficult for any ethnic group, except of course pakeha, to be able to do this and reach the 5% threshold.

    "women have increased their presence in the halls of power, but how has that translated into equality for women?" I think this proves my point in some ways. It doesnt matter how many women pms we have had, or how many women you put in the house, unless their politics is based on representing women, it is only make-up.
    .
    There’s never been any guarantee that being able to elect a representative that represents you will improve your lot. The electoral system can aim only for equality of representation, it’s up to the representatives (and everyone else, for that matter) to be seeking other kinds of equality"

    Well I think the history of our political system proves that if you are able to elect a representative that will represent you will improve your lot. The figures show who have not had much improvement in their lot, the unrepresented

    The only thing I ask of the electoral system is exactly what you say, equality of representation (Don't forget, my threshold for 'representation' is higher than yours)..
    And this is what MMP was designed to deliver for electors. It was the aim of the Royal Commission that our electoral system give a. Fairness between pol parties. – in the interests of fairness and equality, the number of seats gained by a political party should be proportional to the number of voters who support that party. b.Effective representation of minority interests.and also
    c. Effective voter participation – the votes of all electors should be of equal weight in influencing election results.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    In the last 20years, the security council has proved impotent time and again to act against gross abuses of human rights, and is losing its losing its legitimacy within the UN, the community of nations

    It's been that way right from the start. Indeed, the security council is not so much impotent against gross abuses of human right, but has actively blocked action against them if they happened within their perceived sphere of influence, and that has been from the word Go. There were massive numbers of vetoes by the Russians in the early history, as they aggressively expanded the Soviet Union.

    Electorates are first past the post - I though you were pro MMP?

    I am, and electorates are part of MMP. The fact that they create a lower effective threshold is the only thing I like about the electorate system, and would happily see it go, so long as similar or better threshold balancing were achieved by another mechanism, probably the PVT.

    I think one equal vote per individual participant in national elections is an excellent model for democratic nations.

    When the individuals are in some way equal, yes. In our system, for instance, the electorates are all roughly the same size, so the MPs get the same vote power. But even small amounts of gerrymandering are perceived as grossly unfair here, and what happens in the UN takes it several orders of magnitude further. It only doesn't matter because it's not a parliament. It's not a democratic system, doesn't work on majoritarianism. So it's not really a useful model for a parliament. That's really all I want to say on the UN, it's so off topic for MMP reform it's not funny.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    I was interested to read this morning, in The Politics of Electoral Systems, that Arend Lijphart opts for the Danish system of PR as the closest to his ideal model. Very low threshold (about 2%) - but a more complex system than NZ. Very stable, and still not many parties in the parliament.
    I was also interested to read in the same volume that "proportional representation correlated with higher numbers of parliamentary parties, but it is not very strong"..

    Isn't the Electoral Commission due to submit its final proposals to parliament about now?

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Hell no. I do not believe claiming or belonging to a particular ethnicity, is sufficient grounds to believe that someone 'represents members of this ethnicity'. That is a very dangerous assumption to make, IMHO.

    You're conflating "an important factor" with "a sufficient factor". They're not the same. As I already pointed out, sufficiency is a very, very strict criterion, to the point that representation can't be said to be perfectly sufficient unless it is the individuals themselves doing it.

    The most crucial factor, and arguably the only genuinely democratic one, is when "a pol. party claims that they seek to represent the interests and aspirations of (our) ethnic group"

    Right, and both National and Labour make that claim, for nearly every group. Which means that's a pretty easily satisfied criterion, a box that has to be ticked but isn't really very hard to tick.

    You seem to think that criterion is that the party claims to represent the aspirations of the ethnic group to the exclusion of all other interests. But that's your interpretation. I think it's perfectly possible for a group to represent multiple interests. Indeed even a purely ethnic representative will be doing so, in practice, since the ethnic group itself is formed from multiple interests, often in direct conflict with one another - rich vs poor, men vs women, religion vs religion, etc.

    In this country, it would be very difficult for any ethnic group, except of course pakeha, to be able to do this and reach the 5% threshold.

    Yup, outside of the top 4 ethnicities (depending how you slice them. It's not like Pakeha are one united people, and it's not like "Asian" is a coherent group), it would be impossible even for a massively reduced threshold. Which practically means there will never be an Indian party, a Mongolian Party, a Tongan Party, a Brazilian Party, a Torres Straights Islanders Party, etc. These minorities will never get representation in the form of a party all to themselves in NZ. That does not mean they will never get any representation at all. It can turn out that a Chinese businessman feels his interests are actually most closely met by, for instance, the National Party, and he can't stand anyone in a party that claims to stand for Chinese exclusively. I know several Maori who feel this way about the Maori Party.

    Well I think the history of our political system proves that if you are able to elect a representative that will represent you will improve your lot.

    Not sure, because you are disputing the meaning of "representing" and "representative". There isn't a successful party in NZ that claims to stand only for Pakeha interests, and yet Pakeha tend to have the best lot. Makes me think (again) that your conception of representation isn't on the money.

    The only thing I ask of the electoral system is exactly what you say

    Heh. It's been fun quibbling over little details, especially since you're a new contributor here. You wanted a good run, so I've given it, but in the end, we're in agreement.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    Of the three main minority ethnic groups, only one has made it into parliament, and that via the Maori electorate (the Maori Party - which is struggling). I think this points to the underlying racism of our society, and our electoral system.

    "but in the end, we’re in agreement".
    That is definitely a misrepresentation of my position.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    I think this points to the underlying racism of our society, and our electoral system.

    I don't think so. It points to society not seeing everything through the lens of ethnicity. There are more than enough Maori to push a Maori Party across the PVT, if they really thought it represented them, and no one else does. That doesn't happen, though. Why? If it's racism, then it's racism by Maori, against Maori that is at work here. I don't buy it. I say Maori who don't vote for the Maori Party (which is most of them) need a lot of explaining in your way of understanding representation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    I personally don't blame Maori for their representational, or any of the other inequalities they face in our society. It is the dominant sections of pakeha society that have determined the social and political structures of our society, not Maori. To me that's basic NZ history.
    The Maori party, the first time such a party has appeared in Parliament, have to compete for the votes of Maori against all other parties. On top of that, they have to pass 5%, yet the population of Maori voters is only about 10% of the electoral population, and their vote is split between the Maori, and General roll. These are sum of the reasons it is discriminatory. I mean, that's politics, or rather, racist politics. .

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    On top of that, they have to pass 5%

    They don't, and they never have. They only need to win one of the Maori Seats and use the coat-tailing mechanism, if it would help. It never has helped, because they don't get anywhere near enough party vote. So far, they've always had overhangs, meaning they are overrepresented, proportionally. If you want an example of unfair proportional representation, the Maori Party is exactly the wrong example to choose.

    What you struggle to explain is why less than a quarter of Maori have ever voted for the Maori Party. Why even in Maori electorates, where only Maori are allowed to vote at all, the Maori Party isn't just a shoo-in against Labour, who you claim don't represent Maori in any way, shade, manner or form. Riddle me that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    Yes I think Maori loyalties are divided across party lines. Its quite a complex subject really, the Maori vote. The Maori party recently decided to change their strategy, and not ignore the party vote in future, as they have been doing, which may go some way to explain their low party vote. A party vote for the Maori party would (have0 been seen as a wasted vote. Given the lower turnout of Maori, they are probably not over represented in terms of electoral population.
    dont take my word for it, as the points I have been making about the poor representation for minorities, particularly Maori, have already been made by the Royal Commission. They said the existing system of separate Maori representation, and its monopoly by the Labour Party, did not serve Maori well. Hence the reason they wished to see the 5% threshold dropped for them, and also suggested the same may be desirable for Pacific Islanders. They also suggested the abolition of the Maori seats, of course, and were fully aware of the role the seats had in signaling Maori tangata whenua status (which of course, must be preserved at all costs, I am sure you agree). I don't think merely dropping the threshold did that for Maori and special treatment for Maori on the threshold would have been palatable to pakeha. Still wouldn't. However, if the Maori seats are abolished, which is getting more probable, it might be a sweetener.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Yes I think Maori loyalties are divided across party lines. Its quite a complex subject really, the Maori vote. The Maori party recently decided to change their strategy, and not ignore the party vote in future, as they have been doing, which may go some way to explain their low party vote.

    Only if they manage to change this fact. I think that the Maori vote is no more complicated than any minority ethnic vote. The simple fact is that representative democracy is not the same as single issue democracy. You want that, you need direct democracy. Representatives can and do present a bundle of views, taking little bits from many demographics. That's how it works, and it's how it's designed to work. It's a practical system, that understands that the decisions made by the body politic are constant, many and varied, and governance doesn't just boil down to blindly following a manifesto generated up to three years before the problems arise.

    To fail to understand this is to remain mystified as to why minority ethnic groups are underrepresented (party-wise) even under working proportional representation, and why, for example, an issue like cannabis law reform can never get any representation at all, even if an actual majority of people support it. They just don't want to make that the only thing they voted on in an election.

    Single issue groups tend to only gain traction for a while, until the questions they raised are addressed. So you can get a powerful ethnic minority party gaining a large number of seats, but then the major parties address those issues, and the support for the minor parties wanes. This is the system working, not entrenched racism. It's one of the things MMP addresses, one of the best effects of it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters, in reply to BenWilson,

    I don't claim to have all the right answers, but is it is correct to say that because a party seeks to represent an ethnic group, it is thereby defined as 'single issue', as you assert (I would call that a glib Helen Clark neologism).. Such a party sees many of the issues that face us all, through the lens of its own particular world view, which is something other, so called representative parties, which were established by, and for, the world view of another ethnic group, cannot do. The established parties in NZ have done an appalling job of 'representing' the interest and aspirations of Maori in NZ. That's why we have the Waitangi tribunal, I would have thought, to uncover the ways and means that were used to disinherit Maori, and how we may reimburse what has been stolen (although that is not really possible).

    I don't find it difficult to understand why minority ethnic groups are under represented, and majority groups over represented.
    I would not be so bold as to say the weed party may never get a representative, or become part of some sort of alliance, and get someone in that way. They had a very sobering harvest of votes one particular year.

    I don't believe the system has worked well for Maori, just as an example, and still doesn't. Its going to take more than ' a while' to address the issue of Maori inequality, and the racism in our society. The best party(s) to keep it on the agenda are those with that aim as touchstone. I am not sure exactly what Labour and the Nats have as their basic modus operandi, but it ain't that, as history shows.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Peters,

    is it is correct to say that because a party seeks to represent an ethnic group, it is thereby defined as 'single issue', as you assert

    I don't really know either. "Single issue party" is a difficult concept to formalize. You could say that the ALCP encapsulates an entire stoner world view and way of life, and probably has stoner economic policy (which might even work). Also, very often the major parties seek to crystallize their difference down to a single thing "Iwi vs Kiwi", "Steady as she goes", "Looking after the little guy", etc and that might actually be quite powerful with voters.

    That said I don't think the concept of broad vs targeted appeal is totally meaningless, just because it is imprecise. I guess I'd call an ethnic minority party a single issue one, to the extent that they make their only point of difference that they are the representatives of that minority, and don't make it clear what their intended policy is. This is more tenable outside of power than in. The Maori Party, for instance were pretty clearly "The party that's all about Maori" with "Who move mountains to repeal the F&S Act". But after becoming a part of successive government coalitions, and having to actually take on positions of responsibility and make choices, it's become clearer what their more general position is, and I'd say that's why Harawira broke off, when it became clear to him that it wasn't really about representing Maori as the poorest people in this country, and more about furthering the interests of tribal power.

    Again, I don't actually think this is bad. They actually achieved their biggest aim, the repeal of what they perceived as another illegal land acquisition. To be honest, they managed to convince me of that, and they probably wouldn't have been able to without gaining power.

    This was a big win for Maori, and MMP made it possible*, National needed the Maori Party to make their coalition stronger, and ended up repealing something that had, ironically, been put in place as a reaction to Brash's alarmist reaction to the absence of such an Act, and how Maori might be able to exclude "middle NZ" from access to beaches. In other words, they wielded substantial power for a time.

    However, there being a Maori Party hasn't done much to reverse the fuxored position of Maori in NZ, they're still the demographic with most of the worst outcomes. IMHO, that's what Harawira's real point in breaking away is. To give them a wake-up call about what Maori really need.

    *ETA: Actually, now I think about it, the only way MMP helped is that it makes coalition a near certainty. Maori Party actually got its seats FPP style and could have won those under FPP. But if we had FPP, chances are those 3 seats would not be needed, and either Labour or National would get an outright majority nearly every election.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

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