Monday is another day-More ruminations on New Zealand Power and Politics

Monday is another day-More ruminations on New Zealand Power and Politics 

 Kevin P Clements

 Now that most electoral returns are in we have learned that a million eligible New Zealanders chose not to register to vote or vote in this last election campaign. The final vote, therefore, is 72% of the eligible voters. This means that the National Party’s 48% tally ( while more than enough to dominate Parliament) was only 34.5% of the total eligible voters. So 65.5% of New Zealand’s citizens either chose not to vote or cast their votes for someone other than the National Party. I think that this explains why John Key is urging his Caucus not to allow the victory to run to their heads, nor to move too far Right, nor to succumb to arrogance.

Unfortunately this figure once again highlights   some of the deficiencies in modern democratic processes. Minorities sometimes end up with parliamentary majorities which give them the illusion that they have a mandate to govern, to dominate and to rule. The reality is that in most modern Western democracies citizens don’t like being governed, dominated or ruled. These are all 19th and early 2oth century concepts. Most citizens want to be consulted, treated equally and wish to engage in collaborative decision making.

John Key is now turning his attention to which coalition partners he wishes to include in his government to give the illusion of inclusion.

He has agreed to give one Cabinet seat to the Maori Party which polled 1.29% of the total vote and to United Future which polled 0.22% of the total vote and he is even contemplating given a Cabinet position to the sole rookie representative of the ACT party, David Seymour, whose party only polled 0.69% of the total vote.

All these choices look like very small tails on the dominant National dog. Giving Cabinet seats to these parties is one thing the other is conceding policy positions to these parties which together only polled 2.2% of the vote.

None of the votes for these minor parties represent ringing public mandates for more Charter Schools, more de-regulation, more draconian labour legislation, or a radical amendment of the Resource Management Act. Yet these small parties ( with the possible exception of the Maori Party) would like policy moves in these directions.

The large non enrollment and absentee vote is part of what is known as a growing democratic deficit all around the world. This occurs when ostensibly democratic organisations or institutions (particularly governments) fall short of fulfilling the principles of democracy in their practices or operation. There is also a democratic deficit where representative and linked parliamentary integrity is questioned. This was something that did occur in this election campaign. Dirty Politics was essentially about rights, responsibilities and the extent to which our elected representatives see themselves as rulers desiring our submission or listeners seeking our opinions.

There are far too many democracies where citizens are disillusioned with political processes, politicians and political parties. As mentioned on Sunday, there is very little obvious political commitment in 2014 New Zealand to the concept of a public service or politics as a vocation. There is far too little attention paid to the development of systematic consultative processes or policies that might facilitate radical inclusion on issues that affect the well being of specific communities and localities.

So we are left with majority minorities seeking to impose their will on minority minorities-except when they are needed to add coalition colour to a dominant parliamentary grouping.

So a big loud mmmmm from me here. I am no longer in shock or traumatised by the worst electoral result for the Left in many, many, years. I am focused   on ways of ensuring that the National Government governs in the public rather than sectional interest. I’m focused on ways of reducing the Democratic deficit so that new life can be breathed into creaky institutions. I’m focused on ways in which the parties that lost can reconnect with constituents and constituencies to reflect more adequately, their interests, satisfy their needs and facilitate mutuality across boundaries of difference. I’m interested in what we need to do to get this little country back together again and how do we get people focused on the issues and politics of the 21st century rather than the 20th?


About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
This entry was posted in #NZ Politics, ACT, Charter Schools, democratic deficit, Dirty Politics, Maori Party, Resource Management Act, United Future and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Monday is another day-More ruminations on New Zealand Power and Politics

  1. Gray Southon says:

    I entirely agree – no ifs and buts this time. Your last paragraph especially is a great rallying statement.
    At least we can be grateful that our turnout was not in the 40% region as some countries that call themselves democratic are faced with.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John Hughes says:

    Agree with your last paragraph. I believe our current MMP system has not enhanced our democracy of representation but rather has fragmented it as your writing suggests. Also, public complacency with enrolment and voter turnout is responsible for John Keys success.The present system has spoken. Those who care as you and I do, need to advocate for change here.


  3. Nic Farra says:

    The tyranny of the party list is a glaringly anti-democratic smear across our parliamentary democracy. How does one reconcile the miniscule party preferences as noted above for these political parties whose constituents are fewer than the number of informal votes, with others who clearly have the voice of greater numbers of electors? How can a candidate who has little constituent support not only remain in parliament, but be rewarded with a cabinet post? I can’t be the only voter who feels the party list has taken my choice away.


  4. Gerard W says:

    What the country voted for, and in fact has always voted for since the implementation of MMP, is a National-Labour coalition. Am I being woefully naive and infantile in asking why these two groups working together is seen as an utter impossibility?


    • Gerard,
      There are some challenges with sucha coalition although it is true that John Key basically occupied the Centre Left that Helen Clark vacated. The biggest mistake that Cunliffe made was not having a formal coalition with the Greens that would have tipped a whole series of seats where Labour and the Greens were in competition. Anyway, we are in for a period of political change and transformation which is always fun! Cheers Kevin


      • Gerard W says:

        My point is that the line between “left” and “right” exists in our minds only. If translocated to the US, for example, both our main parties would be considered “left” and as such, potential coalition partners. I think we need to stop rigidly compartmentalising ideologies…. the truth is there are many people in both Labour and National that would probably be perfectly happy in either party. Let’s not forget that Roger Douglas started off in Labour! 🙂 Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Gray Southon says:

    I am not sure that the parties are so close. National is for the individual, Labour for the collective. National is a party that focused on individual initiative. It glorifies those that have made it, sometimes from oppressed conditions, and wants to do all it can to remove impediments from those who want to get ahead. Labour is more focused on oppression, and moves to bring those classes out of oppression, and make it a fairer world.

    Now they do come together in some of their policies, but they do also have major policy differences, particularly in income redistribution and the democratic process. They also have major differences in their allegiances (business vs union).

    That does not mean that they cannot move together, but their psyche and history is very much against it.

    Perhaps one element that may turn people against Labour is the perception that labour presumes the moral high ground and the right to dictate how people should live and how to spend their money (e.g. the nanny state). National avoids such value judgements, and says that people deserve the fruits of their efforts, whether good or bad. It seems to me that Labour failed to sell the value of collective effort, and focussed mainly on what you could get from their largesse.

    There are many anomalies, of course, one is the enormous expenditure on roads. But that, of course, is in support of individual mobility.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts – love to hear other’s views.

    Gray Southon


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