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?