Thursday, January 30, 2014

Our unhealthy political landscape

Yesterday the Libertarianz, one of our longer-lasting and more active minor parties, was deregistered at its own request, presumably because it no longer meets the requirement of having 500 members. It is unclear at this stage whether this is temporary, a-la United Future, or permanent - but its worth noting that their website hasn't been active for almost a year. While an unregistered party can still stand electorate candidates, it cannot contest the all-important party list, and its usually a quick path to oblivion. While I don't like the Libertarianz or what they stand for, the number of minor parties outside Parliament is a sign of the health of our democracy, of how involved and willing to participate people are. That number has shrunk significantly since the introduction of MMP, so that we are now down to a handful. And it will probably shrink - the NZ Democrats got a similar number of votes to the Libertarianz last election, and the Alliance (remember them?) got fewer, so they're both probably out the door soon.

Still, its not as bad as it seems: because at the same time the Electoral Commission was deregistering the Libertarianz, it was registering Focus NZ. Formally known as the NZ Rural Party, this is basically a party for farmers and country hicks, promoting a mix of absolute propertarianism and NZ First-style economic nationalism. While it has no real media profile yet, it will be interesting to see how it does in those National-dominated rural seats.

So, the number of registered parties has at least stayed constant - for now. And we've got the Internet Party on the horizon, and possibly some sort of racist or ACT reborn vehicle as well (oh. And The Civilian, of course). Still, our political landscape is far from healthy, and you really have to wonder how much MMP's undemocratic 5% threshold is contributing to the problem.