Sunday, May 1, 2011

Representation

I find myself wondering what ever happened to the system of government in New Zealand. While there's no clear definition (none that satisfies me as a political system at least) of the term "Democracy", it seems to be that we vote (or should vote) for those who we think best represents us and our interests.

In times gone by, there was just Labour and National and it wasn't until the 1970's that people wanted change. So in 1996 the first MMP election was held. It only took 20 odd years to get some change...

MMP promised us better representation of smaller parties in government.

MMP allows us to vote for the party we think best represents us and, independently, a person in our area who we think best represents our interests. So we go out in droves and vote. Only - the people we vote to represent us don't actually represent us. Their votes for laws and the like are their party's line. It's not necessarily the opinion or values of that particular member.

And the party vote? As soon as the election is over, there's a mad scramble to form two coalitions.

Whoa there! That's not what we voted for is it? We voted for that party to represent us and our interests. Not to get to parliament, trade away those same values that they were voted in on, so that they can represent a coalition partner.

This is a hypocrisy like the whole "Leader of the Free World" thing.

If America is the leader of the free world and the U.S. president usually gets that title slapped on them. But then, if the U.S. President was the leader of the free world, by it's very definition, the U.S. sees itself as "The Free World" as others around the world who consider themselves members of the free world don't get a vote. This does need to be acknowledged. American's may worry about America when electing their President. The rest of the world worries about the rest of the world when the American elections are being held. This means America's electoral system needs to become a whole lot better.

So somewhere in between us voting and those voted representatives getting to parliament, something happens. They represent their party and then that party represents a coalition. I remember my frustration in 1996 watching the news about all of scrambling around forming coalitions. Isn't the whole point of MMP to allow those smaller parties to get into parliament and represent those issues that are important to those who voted them in?

After the last election I went looking for oaths that members of parliament swear to. I was convinced that there must be something about representing those who voted them in or the people of New Zealand. There is no such oath. The only oath seems to be to the Queen.

So members of parliament don't actually have to represent us but we vote for them as if they're going to represent us and in reality they represent their party which ultimately represents a coalition. This is suddenly sounding like First Past the Post. A system whereby the dominance of a bi-party system is reinforced. Take a step back, change the word "coalition" to "party" and all you have is a two party system again.

Is it time to start kicking up a fuss? If we start now, in 20 odd years time we might see some change.

And what should that change look like? I think the government needs a party that represents New Zealanders.

Rather than trusting that the elected member of parliament has any clue about what the people in New Zealand want or need, those voted members vote only after the New Zealand public are allowed some discussion.

Why do we have elected officials to make decisions on our behalf? Because if you had to get the opinion of every stakeholder (the people of New Zealand) you'd never make any changes. If only we had the technology to do a highly parallel collection of votes and discussion medium where the data could be collected in one point and have it all happen within a matter of days...

Yes - I'm proposing we use technology to let our voices be heard. Those who are interested can read up and lodge a vote. I've been asked what about those without computers? I have to ask - how much does a computer cost? Hone Harawira's by-election is going to cost $500,000 which could be saved if he chose to wait 6 months. With $500,000, how many computers do you think could be brought and powered for a year? Would we really object to computers being put all over New Zealand if it meant the people of New Zealand could have their voices heard?

And that's a fraction of the price! Hone Harawira is framing his decision to hold a by-election as the cost for democracy - again... 6 months. And that's the cost of democracy for the Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau - 1 of 7 Maori electorates in New Zealand. I can't seem to find any figures on how big the Maori electoral roll is but in 2008, only 55% of those registered on this roll voted. It would be my guess that the figure would be quite a small fraction of our 4.4 million (rounded figure from an estimate on wikipedia) people.

I don't think we'd achieve anything at this stage by trying to replace all of government with an online system, but a voted in party which declared itself independent and only represented collected opinions and votes would open the door for people getting involved in politics. In fact, if the party split itself as best it could based on the figures of their votes, then that party's representation in parliament would be a balanced one.

1 comment:

  1. Here's the figures for you:

    Estimated Eligible Population: 3,238,200
    General Roll: 2,750,129
    Māori Roll: 223,722

    Does this number surprise you?

    ReplyDelete