Democracy under threat in New Zealand

Citizens in Germany and New Zealand have just exercised their democratic right to elect representatives to their countries’ parliaments. The results are not dissimilar but response from the media and mainstream politicians has been remarkably different.

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New Zealand is one of them – and Big Business doesn’t like it!

In Germany, the party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel won 33% of the popular vote, and 35% of the seats in the Bundestag. She, the country’s news media and most Germans expect Ms Merkel to continue as Chancellor after forming a coalition with one or two other parties. That’s the way the system works. It’s called Proportional Representation, and allocates seats in the nation’s legislature to parties according to the number of votes they receive. Sounds fair, doesn’t it? No moaning and grumbling – just get on with the job. As they do in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and many other civilised countries using a PR electoral system.

But take a look at what’s happening in New Zealand. The governing conservative National Party gained 46% of the vote and a proportional number of seats in the House of Representatives; the Labour Party, 36%, and two minor parties, around 8% and 6%, entitling their supporters to some representation in parliament.

And listen to the uproar! The news media are filling their pages with black propaganda against Winston Peters, leader of the tiny NZ First Party:

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An orchestrated campaign to turn back the clock

“New Zealand’s hung parliament”

“The New Zealand First leader and kingmaker”

“Winston Peters, who currently holds the country’s future in his hands”

Kingmaker? Does that mean that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, almost always from the big business National Party, exercises the power of a monarch? More or less, yes!

Certainly Big Business does not like the MMP system of proportional representation that citizens in New Zealand worked so hard to bring in in 1994. And I guess they are also not keen on Mr Peters, who campaigned against business “fat cats”, and has been harshly criticising the size of exit packages dished out to departing corporate CEOs.

Interestingly, voter turnout in NZ parliamentary elections has been increasing in recent years, possibly as voters start to realise the power MMP gives them to exercise some control over the actions of the government. This year the turnout was 79%, similar to Germany’s 76%.

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Not much has changed in the US. The best democracy money can buy!

Compare that to the United States of America, land of the free and loudest trumpeter of its hallowed democracy. In the 2016 election that brought Donald Trump to the world stage, only 58% of American voters bothered exercising their right. Two years previously, in the mid-term election for representatives to Congress, a mere 36% turned out.

I’m sure there is nothing Big Business in New Zealand would like better than to return to the old First-past-the-post voting system where the National Party used to regularly govern alone despite winning fewer than half of the popular votes, and sometimes fewer than the main opposition party.

When you have been the government for most of the last 70 years, you have had ample opportunity to “adjust” the system to ensure you continue to do so. Now it seems they are dragging out the counting of special votes to build up pressure on the small parties, and to persuade the New Zealand public that the system is bad. And they have the news media in their pocket. As always, prior to the election, the tame media once again built up the pathetic Labour Party into a “credible” opposition to ensure that the “minor” parties stayed that way.

When all the shouting is over, poor New Zealanders can look forward to another four years of being screwed by Big Business and their National Party stooges.

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9 thoughts on “Democracy under threat in New Zealand

  1. “Not much has changed in the US. The best democracy money can buy!”

    Thus the reason I take some hope in the fact that almost half of Americans are finally waking up and not bothering to take part in these every two and four year farces. Local voting, I have no problem with, since people have a better chance of having their voices heard and votes counting. But the major elections, as you probably know, are completely rigged: with vote tampering, special interests/lobbying, and of course, the electoral college and continuous changing of congressional districts.

    We were informed, here, that only 52% voted in 2016, and basically the half that did vote were split in half again; with less than half voting for Trump and a little more than half voting for Bill’s wife.

  2. I was a non-list Green Party parliamentary candidate in this election and witnessed the party undergo a virtual coup by the Green Party caucus that totally undercut consensus decision making by the membership. Essentially our party has lost half their MPs thanks to this debacle – with an austere neoliberal budget proposal that included a $2 billion surplus in the first year! At the moment the grassroots of the party confronts the difficult choice between fighting to get our party back (we’re giving it 6 months) or starting a new party with all the people who have already resigned.

    • How does such a thing happen? Good on you for trying. I tried twice back in the 80s – and saw close-up how alternative parties are attacked from without and sabotaged from within. I got pretty disillusioned with NZ politics. And MMP doesn’t seem to have made things much better.

      • My sense is the Greens were sabotaged from within. My friend and I identified two specific individuals who were deliberately creating chaos in some of the policy discussion groups. There were probably more.

      • Tell me about it! I spent six years fighting for the Social Credit Political League. Interestingly, it was not set up as a political party as such – the only thing you were required to believe in was the absolute necessity of monetary reform. And the corporate establishment did everything to wipe us out – eventually succeeding.

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