Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Labour promises a less representative Parliament

On Firstline this morning, Labour's David Cunliffe promised to introduce legislation to scrap the "electorate lifeboat" provision of MMP within his first hundred days in office:

“The incoming Labour-led government under my leadership would, within our first 100 days in office, initiate moves to repeal this part of the Electoral Act.

“National has supported a widely discredited electoral rule which skews the democratic process to its own political ends. The New Zealand public can see through that,’’ said David Cunliffe.

I think this is a terrible change. The one MP rule is a vital safeguard which ensures representation of smaller parties. Without it, our Parliament would be much less representative than it is at present (unless it was balanced by a removal of the 5% threshold) - and therefore much less democratic.

It doesn't help that there's the usual enormous helping of hypocrisy from Labour on this. Despite their claims to have been "principled and consistent" on the issue, they quietly gifted Coromandel to the Greens in 1999; their opposition is more recent, and based entirely on a desire to rob National of potential coalition partners. And in order to do that, they're willing to make our Parliament less representative and rob their fellow citizens of a democratic voice. It is immoral and undemocratic - but its what happens when you get professional politicians who view the electoral system as a game to be rigged to their advantage, rather than a framework to maximise democratic representation and responsiveness.

Fundamentally, the problem is not the electorate lifeboat. The problem is the threshold - an arbitrary and anti-democratic barrier to representation. If we removed it, or lowered it to a derisory level (1%), then the one MP rule would not matter and parties would not play these games. Instead, they would rise or fall on their popularity with the voters. But judging from the response of the Electoral Commission to this idea - repeating sniffy anti-democratic nonsense about how small parties don't deserve representation or cannot be "effective" - we may simply have to wait for the FPP generation to die before we can get there.