Friday, March 27, 2009

A democratic deficit in the supercity II

Oh joy. Not only is the Royal Commission proposing to massively reduce democratic representation and stack the deck in favour of incumbents and candidates with name recognition - it's also proposing to do this under the least fair possible system: the block-vote. From the report (Ch 13, p. 325):

Based on the evidence it has heard, the Commission does not consider there to be any fundamental problems with the local electoral system. This is consistent with the findings of the Local Government Commission review in 2008, which concluded that generally the Local Electoral Act 2001 is achieving its statutory purpose of providing flexibility and uniformity, and allowing for diversity.

A number of submitters proposed that in future, councils should adopt single transferable voting. The Commission makes no recommendation on this, because it was not persuaded that the adoption of this voting system would assist in solving Auckland’s problems. It proposes that the 2010 local body elections in Auckland be held under the first-past-the-post system. The Auckland Council would not be precluded from changing to an alternative voting system in future, in accordance with the provisions of the Local Electoral Act.

What this will mean is that in 2010 Aucklanders will be expected to elect ten at-large representatives. Looking at DHB elections, the field people will be selected from will be around 40 to 50, and could be much higher - an unmanageably large number even at the lower estimates. The top ten candidates will be elected under FPP, which means a narrow plurality will be able to leverage itself into total dominance of at-large seats, and likely a majority on the council.

This is not a recipe for democracy. Instead, it's a recipe for a return to the old FPP dictatorship - one where 30% of the population gets to lord it over the rest of us and exclude us from power entirely by rigging the system in their favour.

Oh, and to just add a final perfectly-sculpted turd to the cake: they want to move to a four-year term in order to "reduce undesirable election year influences" (otherwise known as "accountability to the public"). So, fewer representatives, elected by less democratic means, for longer. Why didn't they just recommend the appointment of a hereditary Baron and be done with it?

But then it was a royal commission, so the fact that they've produced an elitist, undemocratic answer which would dramatically reduce accountability to the public really isn't that surprising.