Three myths about New Zealand Democracy

myth reality

Myth 1. New Zealand has democracy

Myth 2. Local Politics is not party-political

Myth 3. New Zealanders can influence politics

Myth 1 – New Zealand has democracy

Yes we have MMP (Multi-Member Proportional).

But we don’t have proportional voting in our Electorate Seats, and without it we don’t have democracy. Instead we have a winner takes all system called First Past the Post (FPP). We know that politics is not a zero-sum game and that we only advance by listening to each other and working together. And we all know the rorts which means voters actually have to vote for candidates they DON’T want in order to exclude even worse candidates.

A simple short term solution (until we get proportional representation in Electorate Seats) is to count Electorate seat votes under a Preferential system. The voting would stay the same and the ballot paper wouldn’t have to change, but the counting system would be preferential – candidates would lodge their preferences with the Electoral Commission. For example. Candidate A would lodge a ticket saying “if we don’t get elected then our votes should be counted towards  Candidate B, C and D etc, in that order.” Here is how a preferential count works.

Myth 2 – Local Government is not party-political

Go to almost any neighbourhood organisation meeting or Local Board meeting and nine times out of ten the first speech by the rulers will begin by saying “It’s wonderful that national politics doesn’t intrude into our local government” or “We don’t want party politics here.” This is the myth propagated very very deliberately by the Citizens and Ratepayers group which is an arm of the National Party.

Myth 3 – New Zealanders can influence politics

Voting once every few years is not much influence. True, with MMP the parliament can vote no confidence in the government, but coalition arrangements are usually worded so that this is avoided. And we all know elections are hugely influenced by the media buying power of the dominant parties. Perhaps it’s time for a rethink of election funding rules.

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