Brian Edwards: Is this democracy?

Opinion

Dr Brian Edwards

The joker in the pack as kingmaker

As I write this, Winston Peters may or may not have made up his mind whether to go with Bill or Jacinda.

How many brain cells to you have to lose in order to regard MMP as a workable and satisfactory form of democracy?

One egotist – I would have used a stronger term but my wife says it would be defamatory – one egotist is offered the keys to the kingdom and gratefully, if not graciously, accepts. And this is the third time it has happened.

This is not democracy; this borders on autocracy.

Only the names of the powerbrokers change.

When the leaders of the two largest parties in the country have to go cap in hand to the joker in the pack in order to govern, something is very amiss with the system.

This might not be the case if the joker in the pack were motivated by altruism on behalf of the citizenry. But that really is stretching credibility.

It’s fun though. No denying Winston really is a hoot. So that’s all right then. Isn’t it?

Commentator and media trainer Dr Brian Edwards posts at Brian Edwards Media.


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18 Comments & Questions

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So who offered Winston the keys?
I would like to see a list of the reasons , for and against, Labour offering National confidence and supply in return for getting some policy gains , say on "child poverty" and "homelessness.

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Look at the 7% man now. Changing the goal posts every time the media approach him. I wonder why he is stalling for time?

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There's certainly no denying that it's comical. Not sure we want to reduce democracy to entertainment though do we?

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It is a sad indictment on both parties that in their desperation for power they are willing to get into bed with Winston at the expense of (some of at least) the policies that their supporters voted for. Ardern and English should be talking to each other on how to work together and keep NZ First out of the picture.

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Yes, this is democracy - it is negotiation to form a government that represents the majority of the population.
Who says that democracy should be easy ?
Isn't democracy the art of compromise and listening to other people's opinions ?
I've lived with the pre-MMP system and this is far far better.

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If the "negotiation" was taking place in public you might have a point. If was conducted in accordance with policies announced during the election it would perhaps reflect a majority view. If the negotiators had been elected then it might even be described as democratic. But even the Muldoon Ministry, for which MMP was the prescribed antidote, was never as crazy as this.

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Oh come on. We've just had nine years of a government that seeks to resist or work around the OIA at every turn, and only now people are starting to whine about transparency? Where have all you guys been?

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Nowhere else in the world do coalition negotiations take place publicly. Why here? I suspect because most of you don't like Winston and NZF because they may deny National a 4th term. Then I'm sorry but you should have got more people to vote for ACT or National so that NZF weren't involved.

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"the two largest parties have to go cap in hand".
This comment betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of MMP. It's not about how big each individual party is! How many brain cells do you need to understand that? For example, the Greens came out of Labour; under FPP they would presumably join back together. Same with Act and National. Just because Act is not as big as the Greens, doesn't mean that therefore National should win over Labour.

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Get a life.
Why didn't you add "NZ First came out of National"?
Yes he did, I was there.

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I am not talking about NZ First at all. I am talking about understanding MMP, using two clear examples (Act with National and Labour with Greens).
Thanks for the life advice.

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OH I am sorry, I just presumed you were old enough to remember NZF/Nats in the 1990's and the Helen and Winston waltz in the 2000's
So sorry.

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It has been interesting to read discussion on our electoral system. I agree that it has been frustrating watching the egotist calling all the shots but doubt that we should blame MMP.
There is big part driven by the larger parties lacking the spine to call Winston's bluff. It seems power at any price is the only bottom line. The only competitive tension has been between National and Labour as Winston established himself as the only option to power thanks to equally hapless Greens who don't understand negotiating leverage. The Greens might have been seen as the party of principle once but Turei wrecked that myth. Better for all of us if they would have been prepared to make the ends justify the means to get their policies on the national agenda.
The problem isn't MMP per se. Despite the unsatisfactory situation there is no way I'd want an FPP system ever again (see what this has done to the US). My problem is that given the challenge of voter turnout, of those that did bother around 5% or 130,000 votes might as well have stayed home. I was one of them. That is where STV is a better system. Keep the threshold but give people the opportunity to rank their preference to make every vote matter.
And whatever the outcome of this unedifying and distasteful negotiation make Winston Trade Minister to put his obvious negotiating skill to some good use (and keep him out of the country).

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FPP is not te only alternative to kiwi MMP. In any event the USA example does not provide an argument against FPP.

The major political problem in the USA is the binary split that covers all aspects of society, government and the courts. It allows for astounding levels of gerrymandering and other extreme partisanship,

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I agree Len. I would like to see STV so that people can have the confidence to vote for who they want. That way you could even raise the threshold to say 10% to avoid too many small parties.

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There is no STV threashhold in the MMP way you are referring to it.

If you use the Australian STV system, there are no list MPs and electorate MPs have to have an absolute majority (ie more than 50.0%) to be elected.

You rank as many of the candidates as you like in your order of preference. Initially they count all the No 1 preferences. If no-one has an absolute majority (and very few do because of the number of candidates and single issue parties) the lowest polling candidate is eliminated and their voters, second preferences are added into the candidate totals. This process continues until one candidate wins with an absolute majority.

It is said this is more democratic because the winning candidate has the support of an absolute majority of electors (whereas we could have someone elected currently with less than 30% of the vote).

It also has an interesting side effect of single issue parties which in effect become an indication of support for the issue via how many people vote the relevant party candidate first. Voters know that it is very rare for anyone to be elected on first preferences, so they rank the single issue party candidate first and then rank the major party they want to see govern second. That way they get two bites at the cherry for what they want.

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Brian: Does this mean you want to go back to FPP or are you just venting your spleen against Winston?

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The Single Transferable Vote option would have been worse- consider the headaches faced by incumbent Australian federal governments that attempt to deal with their Senate, which is selected along such lines.

And I'm old enough to remember Muldoon back in 1981, thanks. I don't believe FPP was in any way superior to the current electoral outcome. Granted, I find Winston Peters irritating and I would prefer a clean Labour/Green coalition, much as centre-right readers feel the same way about a National/ACT minority government in the present context. Unfortunately, that isn't what happened.

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