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Our mission is to foster the improvement of New Zealand's democratic system and encourage the use of direct democracy through the

Veto, Citizens' Initiated and Recall referendum.


Thursday, 5 February 2009

The MMP debate continues

There was and still is much argument over MMP. Eventually we will face a referendum on this issue as promised by the National Party.

Many now feel that minor parties have had too much power for their small percentage of votes received and that MMP has been a failed exercise in democracy. Should we return to the old FPP (First Past the Post) system?

When first introduced after a binding referendum, the majority of New Zealanders believed MMP would make a huge difference to our political system. I was one of them. It has certainly given us a much more diverse representation but I don't believe it has given us any more control over our governments as we thought it would. However, returning to FPP would mean a return to the old cries of foul play. For example, the Labour Party received more votes than National Party but National stayed in power. Or when the Social Credit party received 20% of the vote but only got two Members of Parliament. Surely we wouldn’t want to go back to those undemocratic days?

There must be a better way to stop our governments pushing through unpopular laws that often fly in the face of those who elected these governments? I believe that New Zealanders must accept they have the right to have a say more than just once every three years at a general election and to do that they must change their thinking. They must demand our politicians update our political system to be more in tune with what voters want.

We are at a point in New Zealand politics where we no longer trust our politicians to make every decision for us. Certainly we look to them for leadership and most often we are happy to let them get on with the job, but that does not mean we agree with everything they want to do. There comes a time when real democracy must be practiced. What we call democracy in New Zealand is simply a Clayton's democracy, it is an elected dictatorship. It is the people of New Zealand who are sovereign and must have the ultimate say. Too much water can pass under the political bridge in between those three years.

I’m open to suggestions but the best system I have come across for doing this is the Swiss system of Binding Citizens Initiated Referendums, the Veto and the Recall. If they are properly managed, properly constituted and the public are properly informed as happens in Switzerland, they would empower New Zealanders and take back the power we have abdicated to politicians.


Anonymous said...

It is evident that both FPP and MMP have failed in the sense that N.Z citizens are no closer to taking political power away than they were before. I would have to agree with Steve that Binding Referendums are the way of the future. There would be less power tantrums in Parliament if politicians knew what they were getting in to straight way. Binding Referendums would make the government accountable to what we decide as a nation and hopefully the politicians that want to represent a true democracy of this kind would only run for parliament.

Anonymous said...

At the time of the debate over what method we should use to elect members of parliament I too favoured change away from the FPP crudity, but my preference was, and still is, the STV (Single Transferable Vote) system. Even so, I was happy that a little bit of change happened.

However, I also felt that this was far too little, and so I set about creating a presentation for the Wellington Branch of the NZ Computer Society in which the first slide rendered the letters MMP as “Much More Please”.

My presentation combined two major streams of thought: the need for a political system that truly reflected the maturity of a well-educated population, together with the technological bases upon which a much more responsive and responsible form of government could be shaped. That was how the title of the talk came about: “An Interactive Electronic Democracy” or IED. I presented this talk, supported by a good set of PowerPoint slides, in September 1996, in Turnbull House.

It can hardly come as a surprise to anyone looking at the fossilised nature of so many of the planet’s political systems, that I could only find one that was worthy of being the model for a 21st Century true, real, democracy. That single one was, and still remains, the Swiss Confederation.

As I researched further, it also became apparent that an essential foundation for a technologically advanced society to develop into an IED is a constitution into which is embedded the only reliable tool for interaction between the people and the administrators they choose: the referendum.

This is the most distinctive and ultra-modern feature of the Constitution of the Helvetic Confederation, and of the Constitutions of all the 26 Cantons that form that Confederation, and of all the Communes that each of those Cantons comprises.

What it means is that at all three levels of political structure, the interaction between people and elected politicians is direct, transparent, and honest.

I look forward to contributing more on these constitutional questions in the future.

Roger Monckton said...

Many of us voted for MMP simply as a way to decrease the Gov'ts and MP's power in general - in fact we were sick to death of them and the secret agendas that were foisted on us largely because of the unbridled power FPP could give to a Govt.
In a way it was a negative vote.... "Lets make them talk to each other... for once!!"... we thought.... Yeah Right!!
Though what we have in effect done is give more power to the Parties and their executives - by way of the party vote!! Though I have to add that the diversity brought to Parliament by MMP was desperately needed
My wish list would include the judicious use of BCIR... " so occasionally the Gov't has TO DO AS THEY ARE TOLD - more than once every three years" ..... this combined with some form of STV would be a highly effective and responsible way to govern our Beautiful Country

Steve Baron said...

The “An Interactive Electronic Democracy” that Dominic talks about is quite interesting. The Chief Electoral Office is looking at testing such a system starting in 2011 but they appear very cautious. Have a look at this report.