Brian Edwards Media

Is this Democracy?

As I write this Winston Peters may or may not have made up his mind whether to go with Bill or Jacinda. How many brain cells to you have to lose in order to regard MMP as a workable and satisfactory form of democracy. One egotist – I would have used a stronger term but my wife says it would be defamatory – one egotist is offered the keys to the kingdom and gratefully, if not graciously, accepts. And this is the third time it has happened.

This is not democracy; this borders on autocracy. Only the names of the powerbrokers change. When the leaders of the two largest parties in the country have to go cap in hand to the joker in the pack in order to govern, something is very amiss with the system. This might not be the case if the joker in the pack were motivated by altruism on behalf of the citizenry. But that really is stretching credibility.

It’s fun though. No denying Winston really is a hoot. So that’s all right then. Isn’t it?

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  1. When it comes to real world issues (y’know, outside the beltway) National is the actual joker in the pack.

    Winston has not done anywhere near as much damage to the country as the Nats have. The only crime that could probably be leveled against him is that he doesn’t help bring about stable government.

    To be clear I’m not even sure the debacle of the Shipley government was his crime but given that ‘stable government’ is code for protecting establishment interests I don’t take it very seriously anyway.

    • Actually this is democracy. You seem to be saying that nearly 9% of the population who voted for New Zealand First should be ignored.
      No matter which party NZF goes with, the new government will have been voted for by a majority of the population.
      Unlike FPP where there was often a party in power that had received fewer votes than the opposition.

  2. I agree Brian. This shambles makes Muldoon’s Schnapps election announcement look positively statesmanlike.

  3. I suggest you read Gordon Campbell. Winston gets to choose which
    party will lead the next government but after that he has limited power. If he gets it wrong he will get all the blame and be punished at the next election.

  4. Winston has his last opportunity to make a difference, if he goes with Bill that’s the last to be seen of the Joker in the pack. There won’t be a fourth time. If he goes with Jacinda then yes that should be fun.

  5. If there is anything autocratic in the goings on it would be Bill English´s interminable declarations that he will form a government in partnership with Winston, as though it were a fait accompli.

  6. There are better systems of proportional representation than MMP but the problem is that every time there is a debate or referendum, people have to vote for MPP because otherwise they would be stuck with First Past the Post (FPP) because that is what about 40 percent of the population still want, even though that has been proved to be even more unfair than MMP> If those people could accept that FPP is in the past, then we could all get on with either fine tuning MMP or choosing between it and another from of proportional representation.

  7. Totally disagree Brian. You make the mistake (as almost all of humanity makes)of assuming that Governance by Government is a proactive creative thing. IT IS NOT IN ANY WAY OR FORM – and IT NEVER HATS BEEN.
    Very very very few companies, and almost no Governments (out of 190 approx) are proactive/creative. They are all ‘reactive’, and their sheer self interested truculent bulk (the very character of all human institutions), renders them essentially incapable of creative Governance. That means that what you say above is wrong, from both an economic and a Governance POV.
    If we were to return to FPP, then all NZ would do is once again veer first hard right, then hard left again, then right and then left once more, rendering almost all of the ‘good’ work achieved over the last thirty years completely ruined, and leaving a tortured wreck in its wake.
    As it is, after nine years of Nationals exclusive power plays, the NZ people themselves are a tortured wreck of sorts, and as for the economy? Well. that is likewise a house built on very very shakey ground. Objectively, the main reason we are doing so well is that we seem to have become the sexiest whore on globalism’s ‘K’ Road, … and that’s not much be proud of.
    So like it or not, a balance of left, right, big and small IS the best arrangement of all. Anything else simply encourages the meglomaniacs and narcissists among us, of which there are a great many.

    No paternalists or maternalists get to have their ‘exclusive’ ways (which stops us veering left and right, as National have done through absolute power.
    What were you saying about power just the other day?
    You seem to have forgotten your own tenets when it comes to democracy?

    • Can’t totally agree, Oauki. Firstly, I wouldn’t claim a return to FPP would have us swinging from hard left to hard right: these two aren’t hard anything. There’s so much similarity in their ideals, what we’re choosing from is opposite ends of the same banana.

      Secondly, the term of office set at only three years is hardly enough time for Jacinda to teach her troupe to tango, before it’s off to the polls again. Seems to me if you have MMP, a five year term would be much more productive.

      • 7.1.1

        I’m afraid I can’t see the connection between FPP/MMP and the length of the parliamentary term.

  8. Yes Brian, this is democracy, the rule of the people, in all its inherent messiness. But better a government of the majority than a dictatorship of a plurality. Recall the unchecked governments of ’84 and ’90.

    In the end, we’ll have a government that is supported by more than 50% of the population – a far cry from 1993 when National had 35% support and all the power, or ’78 & ’81 when National didn’t even have a plurality but had power.

    This is only the 2nd time this ‘Monarch Maker’ situation happened – ’05 Winston didn’t really have a choice, a stable government wasn’t possible with National. ’96 he overplayed his hand, and got punished. He will have learnt from that.

    But this is his moment of ‘power’ – once the deal is signed, the major party will have most influence. The Monarch-maker will not become the Monarch. He does right to try and get as much for his constituency as he can – and just as National & Labour will do for theirs.

  9. Its not Winston that angers me so much as ACT with a very very small percentage of votes, gets to have a say with Nationals blessing.Its just not right,or left as the case may be.STV needs to be explored next for progress to move on.

    • “STV needs to be explored next for progress to move on.”

      Totally agree, pjr. But we don’t want Aussie-style STV, as was put to us in 1992 and 2011. That means no above-the-line party boxes.

      As with many things in life, STV, too, has moved on from the 1980s. Ideally, our MPs should be elected from large multi-member electorates. These electorates should be divided into precincts, so that “local heroes” / prominent MPs, can head the party lists in each electorate.

      A unique ‘1’ placed beside the name of a candidate would be sufficient to constitute a valid vote, and the count would be by the NZ STV vote-counting method (used for certain local elections).

      In addition, the names of the candidates below the candidate heading each list should ideally be rotated (not randomised). This would have two benefits: (1) it would spread the votes among a party’s candidates, enabling the lower placed candidates of the largest parties to survive longer in the count; and (2) it would be a (no doubt welcome) substitute for parties expending great effort in trying to corral voters in various parts of the electorate to vote for their candidates in a different order.

  10. Yes, it is our form of democracy. A bit messy at times to be sure but when I look at first-past-the-post systems where large sections of the population are effectively disenfanchised, maybe it’s not so bad.

  11. I couldn’t agree more with you on this one, Brian. And I’ve got a funny feeling that I’ll agree with the column after next that you write…on a similar topic.