So John Stewart has poked a bit of fun at New Zealand politics in his Daily Show! It appears it was only a passing reference, and many would argue that New Zealand politics is only really worth a fleeting piss-take, possibly most of the whole NZ population of 13!!! (Please don’t rush off to check the accuracy of this apparent population of Aotearoa- there are around 4 million of us, and only a very small percentage of them are actually members of any one of the many political parties that contest our 4-year elections. There could well be 13 political parties, of course!!)
Our nation has seldom been rocked by major political corruption so is possibly a natural target for political commentators and satirists. This is not to say, of course that our politicians are any different from their fellow international players of the governing game, for I often feel that for some it is, indeed a ‘game’- that they can afford to be involved in and are unaffected by [I doubt that many of the ‘rulers’ of the day don’t benefit or are hurt or disadvantaged by the legislation they pass!]!
We are in the lead-up to an election later this year, (as we are in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup. I wonder which has the greater significance?)
But as said, we are in the lead-up to an election and so have begun to be bombarded by ‘how good I am’ statements from all of the candidates for the 69 seats to be contested (7 of these are Maori seats to be decided from the Maori Roll, access to which is restricted to those New Zealanders of Maori decent, and which guarantee Maori representation in Parliament, irrespective of any Maori being appointed as general seat candidates. It should be known that the pakeha (non-Maori) population of NZ has mixed views on the value or efficacy of this duality in our electoral system, as do a minority of our Maori population, interestingly enough!)
Coincidentally at this time we are days away from a bi-election in one of our Maori electorates that resulted from one of the Maori Party members falling out with his Party, being ejected, resigning from Parliament then forming his own (new) party. The results of this will be very interesting, although the ‘home boy’ Hone will be very popular with the underprivileged, I suspect. (Interesting to see he claimed an unfavourable land-line poll was ‘rogue’ because too many Taitokerau Maori “couldn’t afford a land-line” so they all use cell-phones!! Hmm.)
We will also be asked to vote in a referendum that will again address the question of how we decide who should govern the country, or rather the system we use to decide. Once-upon-a-time we had a system called “first past the post” whereby we had 1 vote per enrolled elector and we cast this vote for 1 (or no) candidate. After vote counting the party that had won the greatest number of electorate seats, governed. If there was no majority (no party won more than half the electorate seats) there would either be ‘minority’ government’ by the party who won the greatest number of seats, and they would have to be very considerate of the other parties’ views when forming legislation. In the ‘minority’ instance it was possible the ‘major’ winning party could create a ‘coalition government’ by coming to an arrangement with one of the smaller winning parties. If they were the majority government they could then charge full steam ahead pretty much without any concern for what the rest of Parliament (and the population who voted for them) thought about it, (and as a coalition government only slightly less)!!
For the last couple of decades we’ve used a system called ‘MMP’- Mixed Member Proprtional whereby every voter has 2 votes, one of which is cast for the favoured candidate, the second being cast for the favoured party. Any party achieving more than 5% of the total votes cast then seats a list candidate in Parliament. The greater the % of total votes, the more list members. Also if a party wins a seat, they can also seat a list member in The House.
The referendum will firstly ask us whether we want to review how we vote or to keep the current system, and if we wish to change which of an offering of 4 options would we prefer. The systems on offer are (a) a return to FPP, [where we will then have 120 electorates!!]; (b) Preferential Voting [PV] system, where we get many ticks but use them to rank as many candidates as there are in the electorate 1st option, 2nd option, 3rd option, etc.. The winning candidate is the first to garner 51% of the votes in each of the 120 electorates; (c) Single Transferable Vote [STV], 120 electorates and whereby we get 1 transferable vote and this is cast by making our own ranking options, or by voting for the preferred party’s printed options; (d) Supplementary Member [SM] where we have 90 electorates and 2 votes, the first to vote for the preferred candidate and the second for the preferred party which contributes to a percentage vote that decides what proportion of the 30 supplementary (list) seats available a party is entitled to.
So, in a nutshell that is our “Politics”! Who could possibly find any reason to yawn and take a sideswipe at THAT!!!