Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Against a four-year term

Over on Red Alert, Iain Lees-Galloway floats the idea of extending the Parliamentary term to four years. A four-year term is standard in many overseas regimes (e.g. Germany), and its certainly not an undemocratically long period of time to have between elections (unlike Samoa and the UK's five years). But I'm against it. And the reason is simple: I don't trust politicians and want to keep them on a tight electoral leash. And judging by the enormous majorities in favour of retaining the three year term whenever it has been put to the vote, most New Zealanders agree. We saw in the 80's and 90's what rogue governments could do. A short term is the ultimate protection against such governments. Yes, we have to endure - but only for a short while. After which we get to chuck them out on their arses - the democratic substitute for stringing them from lampposts.

What's surprising is how many of our politicians are still completely tone-deaf on this. But I guess it looks different from inside the bubble. From that perspective, three years isn't enough time to do anything, and they could do a lot more with an extra year without the distraction of having to fight for re-election. The thought that the public doesn't want them to "do things" and that we want them to constantly live in fear of the ballot box never enters their heads.

A short Parliamentary term gives us accountability. It gives us the opportunity to change the government if we do not like their direction or their attitude. It gives us control. We yield that control to politicians at our peril.