Monday, April 04, 2005

Maori representation

Big News has a few thoughts on Maori in Parliament. He notes that MMP has led to far greater representation for Maori, primarily due to list selection. He continues:

[g]iven that parties can put promising candidates high on the party list, one argument - although not convincing - is that we no longer need Maori seats to provide Maori representation. Maori representation could be up to list selection, rather than Maori seats.

The problem is that some parties - notably National - seem uninterested in ensuring Maori representation through their lists. At the same time they are actively advocating the abolition of the Maori seats - sending the message that they are actively hostile to the idea of Maori being represented in Parliament. Unfortunately, National are not the sharpest tools in the shed when it comes to voting - they've only just figured out that under MMP it's the party vote that matters, and have yet to figure out that systematically pissing off large segments of the electorate (Maori and women, for a start) means that they will be unable to form a government - and it doesn't look like they're really thought this through. In 1986, the Royal Commission on the Electoral System argued in favour of a common roll because it would

provide Maori electors with a more effective vote and with the assurance that all MPs and not just Maori MPs were in some degree accountable to Maori electors. As a result, all MPs would be forced to compete for Maori votes at election time, and the political parties would therefore be under some pressure to give greater attention to Maori interests and concerns in the development of policy and to pursue those interests more vigorously while in office. They would also be under some pressure to offer Maori as candidates, to service Maori constituents in ways that met their expectations, and to target Maori electors in their canvassing and other electio neering processes.

It also noted that, if they were organised in the same way as black voters in the US were, a common roll would allow Maori voters to exercise far greater power. The upshot for National is that abolishing the Maori seats would force them to start catering to Maori voters or face punishment in the electorates in the same way as they are being punished in the party vote. Is that really what they want?

That said, I don't think squicking National is a good reason to get rid of the Maori seats. More important is the fact that since the Maori option was made voluntary, Maori voters have voted with their feet and chosen to be represented this way - despite the fact that it reduces their electorate voting power. Their wishes I think should be respected.


Of course, the 1986 Royal Commission also recommended not having a 5% threshold under MMP for Maori parties, which I think is a very interesting and worthwhile idea. Hell I'd get rid of the threshold completely.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/05/2005 01:34:00 AM

another way to look it is that the willingness of majority parties to include maori on their rolls does not mean that maori are guaranteed to be represented in this way in future.

in a fantasy world, neither major party could select maori candidates for the list or electorates. the result would of course be that no or minimal maori enter parliament.

the maori seats should only really be questioned if they are demonstrably inequitably for maori, because as you said, at the moment maori are choosing to use them, which implies they are not.

Posted by the other 'Che' : 4/05/2005 08:21:00 AM

Of course, if you didn't assume that the National party was always wrong, you might say that they have recognised that the Maori seats are generally bad for Maori, and therefore that they should be abolished.

If the Maori seats are necessary, then should there also be women's seats (women are still underrepresented), asian seats (likewise), gay seats?? Other than historical existence, what reason is there for the Maori seats?

Posted by Anonymous : 4/05/2005 10:06:00 AM

Electorates are just communities - the general seat of Epsom covers anyone who lives in Epsom; Tamaki Makarau covers those who identify as Maori and live in the Auckland region.

You could have gay or womens electorates - I doubt anyone would choose to vote in them. The UK used to have university electorates open to the graduates of Oxford and Cambridge (this *was* undemocratic as they also got to vote in a normal electorate).

Incidentally, the likely Maori party overhang is not an artefact of the Maori seats - a succesful South Island party would also create an overhang, for instance.

Posted by Rich : 4/05/2005 10:41:00 AM

I would suggest that Labour has already alienated the heterosexual male voters so National is where they will vote.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/05/2005 02:10:00 PM

Anon: I agree wholeheartedly on ditching the threshhold, and it would certainly act as a check on Che's scenario.

PaulL: alternatively, I could admire their commitment to principle - but given their previous utter lack of it (National supported the Maori seats for years to ghettoize the Maori vote, and in 1975 reversed the Kirk government's amendments allowing the number of seats to grow with the Maori roll - an deliberate attempt to ensure they were underrepresented) that would be difficult.

As for non-geographic electorates, it is only "historical existence" which causes us to split the electorate geographically in the first place. There's no reason whatsoever we couldn't have exactly the electorates you describe, and you are perfectly welcome to agitate for them if you wish.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/05/2005 04:21:00 PM

Rich.... electing representitives via individuals social affiliations....
All your going to get by doing that is fascism (corporatism) and that tends to go in ugly directions.

Posted by Genius : 4/05/2005 07:25:00 PM

Genius: isn't "where you live" a social affiliation?

I think a greater danger is that its likely to lead to less competitive seats.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/05/2005 11:36:00 PM

Somewhat - but its not as bad as having worker seats and intelectual seats and whatever else.

You are probably right about the competitiveness issue also.

Posted by Genius : 4/06/2005 01:36:00 AM