Labouring the list

March 26, 2011

Party lists are of great importance to the people on them.

That’s understandable for anyone not standing in an electorate, or standing with little or no chance of winning. But even those with safe seats often want a high place for ego’s sake if nothing else.

Those ranking the list labour over them trying to present a line-up which will appeal to voters without disrupting caucus and upsetting non-MP candidates which can be mutually exclusive goals.

But does anyone else, even political tragics, really pay much attention to them?

The lists are made public once they’ve been sorted but unless there is someone who is well known I’d be very surprised if many voters know, or care, about who is on them and in which order.

The only time after an election a list matters is if a list MP jumps or is pushed from parliament when the next person on the list is invited to take his or her place.

Sometimes,  a party has second thoughts about the ranking as Keeping Stock reminds us the Green Party did  when co-leader Russel Norman leapfrogged Catherine Delahunty and Mike Ward to get into parliament before the last election.

When the Labour list was ranked in 2008 the importance of not upsetting sitting MPs must have had at least some bearing but that is now causing them problems.  The next person on the list is former MP Judith Tizard who must be offered the place vacated by Darren Hughes. If she turns it down it’s offered to Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher and Dave Hereora, all former MPs who, Labour president Andrew Little told Mary Wilson on Checkpoint, will not be on this year’s list.

The next one on the list is Louisa Wall another former MP but one who is standing again.

It is possible that the next five people on Labour’s list won’t want to disrupt their lives to return to parliament for a few months. But, has anyone asked them if they’d like to return for longer? The Labour list has yet to be ranked so if one of the five made the sacrifice they could be offered a place which has the potential to keep them in parliament for the next term.

But from what Little said last night, that isn’t a consideration. Instead it looks like five people will be expected to not take the place which they are entitled to by the law giving a whole new meaning to the term labouring (or should that be Labouring?) the list.

UPDATE: Kiwiblog notes that the five could-be MPs would be turning down 11 months salary if they decline the chance to return to parliament.


Peters’ fiasco shows MMP flaws

August 1, 2008

Public law specialist Andy Nicholls says the Peters’ debacle shows a review of MMP is needed.

Winston Peters’ value to both Labour and National has become abundantly clear. Both parties are pulling their punches over the donations allegations for fear of alienating him as an ally or future ally.

MMP creates hostage situations. Remember Alamein Kopu and her pull over Jenny Shipley?

In this most recent row Sir Robert Jones has unexpectedly been firing most of the bullets at Peters. He probably summed up the view of many when he said, “I belong to a different era. I don’t like it now under MMP.”

John Key has said National will, if elected, hold a referendum into MMP. Key’s referendum will first ask voters: are you satisfied with MMP? If the majority says no, then a second referendum will be held pitting MMP against some other unspecified alternative.

But is this what we need? MMP was itself born out of a referendum, and voter frustration at the unbridled power of first-past-the-post governments. First Sir Robert Muldoon, then Sir Roger Douglas proved if you could control the Cabinet you could control the country.

But one wage freeze and an unadvertised rapid economic transformation later, voters realised they wanted their leaders on a tighter leash. They wanted them to have to work harder, and more consensually, to get their own way. Which is what MMP delivers with its minority or coalition governments, its requirements to consult and its generally slower pace of change.

Referendums are very blunt instruments and support for MMP in the 1993 one came at least in part from people voting against politicians rather than for a change in the voting system.

Plus, of course, for anyone younger than 32, two-tick voting is voting. So why would we ditch it? Because MMP has flaws which undermine the legitimacy of our parliamentary system.

Nicolls gives examples such as the ability for MPs like Gordon Copeland to abandon their parties, switch allegience and still be an MP; or those like Rick Barker who lose a seat but still get back into parliament – and even cabinet – on a party list. Although this also allows MPs to enter parliament when standing in an unwinnable seat, as Katherine Rich has in Dunedin North.

If that is justified by the sanctity of the party list, then what about Mike Ward and Catherine Delahunty? Both Greens and both higher placed on the list than Russel Norman, yet both pushed inelegantly aside when Nandor Tanczos’s early retirement offered the co-leader the chance to get to Parliament in time for some pre-campaign publicity.

All these inconsistencies create unfairness, though not so much as the threshold rule itself.

Under MMP a party must win 5 per cent of the party vote or an electorate seat. A win in an electorate, where the party scores lower than 5 per cent, still gets a proportionate top-up. So Rodney Hide’s win in Epsom gave Act two MPs even though the party won only 1.5 per cent of the party vote.

By comparison, in 1996, the Christian Coalition won 4.33 per cent of the party vote, a hair’s breadth from the magic threshold. But it failed to win in any electorate – so bad luck, no MPs.

There are two issues. Firstly, is the 5 per cent threshold too high? The commission that recommended MMP preferred 4 per cent, but the two major parties argued for a higher threshold. Those fears have proved unfounded. In fact, as much as MMP has delivered a more diverse Parliament, only one new party (Act) has broken in since the switch to MMP. The others have all been created around a sitting member.

But is the electorate threshold too low? In Germany, a party must win three electorates before qualifying for list seats. Adopting a three-electorates or 5 per cent criterion at the 2005 election would have seen five parties able to get in list MPs.

United Future and Act would have been restricted to Peter Dunne and Rodney Hide. As Jim Anderton couldn’t bring in a list MP under current arrangements, the Progressives would have been unaffected. Since none of those three parties attracted more than 2.6 per cent of the party vote, is that an unfair result?

And then there is the Maori vote. Last election, the Maori Party won 2.12 per cent of the party vote and four electorates, hence it has four MPs. This coming election it may win more electorates even though polling indicates its party vote will be no higher.

Since the number of Maori seats grows in accordance with the number on the Maori roll, it is entirely possible that over time this disparity between the number of MPs elected and the party’s proportion of the party vote will grow. That will mean a larger and larger over-hang and the leading party will need to garner not 61 votes to govern, but 63, 64, 65. Is this what we want?

These are all valid issues in need of debate. But they do not fit the yes-no format of a referendum. Nor do they provide evidence that MMP itself is beyond repair.

What they point to is the need for a considered review of the electoral system. Learning the lessons of the Electoral Finance Act, this should be conducted in a non-partisan way with a clearly stated purpose of seeking greater fairness.

In the spirit of fairness, perhaps such a review should also look at the Prime Minister’s prerogative to set the election date. Or the length of the political term; four years might be more productive.

The problem is that these changes require MPs to vote against their own interest. History tells us MPs don’t do that. Which is why a simplistic question in a referendum is so appealing. It looks as if something substantive is being done, even if it isn’t.

But concerns about MMP’s peculiarities are genuine and a more considered review would be more constructive.

I agree a considered review if not instead of, at least before, a referendum would serve us better than the blunt instrument of for or against vote in isolation.


Blogs on unprincipled Green list manipulation

June 4, 2008

I am not alone in thinking that the Green manipulation of its list ranking to allow Russell Norman into parliament is unprincipled.

Under a heading Red Russell no longer to be CInderella  Adam Smith notes:

So ‘Red’ Russel is no longer to be the Cinderella party leader; he will go to the ball. Mike Ward has suddenly decided to play fairy godmother to the Greens Co-leader, so that his wish of entering Parliament before the election can be granted.

What a blatant piece of manipulation of the rules under MMP. Someone who none in the electorate voted for is now propelled into Parliament.  There should be a backlash and a mighty big one at that, against this unprincipled move by the Greens. Indeed, Adam would trust that there would be similar opprobrium heaped on any party that indulges in such shameless manipulation.

No Minister calls them scheming and unprincipled.

David Farrar objects to MPs resigning before their term is up for tactical partisan reasons and to changing the list after the election.

There is no way one can stop an MP resigning early, but one could have a simple law change to remove the ability for a list candidate to refuse to become an MP. They could still be elected and then resign, but that extra step might stop them from doing private deals to change the effective order of a list post-election.

Whaleoil calls it hypocrisy.

The Greens have no shame. Firstly they cynically manipulated the Electoral System to prevent or at the very least hinder freedom of speech and now they manipulate the list system so they can get more money campaigning.

Keeping Stock asks:  

The Greens – party of principle?

That’s a very good question today! We now know that Mike Ward has had a “Road to Damascus” experience, and will stand aside to allow Nandor to retire, and Red Russel Norman to enter Parliament for the last 28 sitting days of the current body!

Now what difference will that make? Well, RR will now enjoy the privileges of office, including an ability to criss-cross Aotearoa by air, and take advantage of the Greens’ parliamentary machine to get the pre-election message to the masses.

 

 Monkeys with Typewriters call them bottom feeders:

 It is bottom feeding – a self-interested, vote-catching race, and it’s simply disgusting – a disgusting retreat from principle by Labour and a disgusting return to simpering denial by National.”
says Russell Norman.

This from the Party that endorsed the Election Finance Act.

but let’s analyse the philosophical view endorsed here. It at once manages to patronise and be smug, without delivering any message of intent, while at the same time displaying an arrogance and disregard for the voter.

I can only imagine that this was after Russell Norman got the email telling him that his seat in Parliament was secure.

The Standard  is the lone dissenting voice:

Good on Mike Ward for finally seeing sense and stepping aside, allowing Greens co-leader Russel Norman to enter Parliament replacing Nandor Tanczos. Norman is rapidly establsihing himself as a very good media frontperson for the Greens; being in Parliament will enhance his role.

Only the righties were praising Ward for not stepping aside (just as they are the only ones praising the Greens for threatening to sink the ETS). Something’s not right when your supporters are asking you to change and the tories are cheering you on.

While The Hive sees a little silver lining the cloud of manipulation:

Both Kiwiblog and the Inquiring Mind have posts today on the news that the Greens have achieved their manipulation of the electoral laws to allow “Red” Russel Norman to jump up the party list so that he can enter Parliament before the election. This means more profile and more money for our neo-Marxist friend.

We are not as outraged as David Farrar or Adam Smith. We want Russel Norman’s views exposed to all as clearly as possible. When people realise where this guy is trying to take the Greens they might think twice about the wisdom of voting them back in. We hope also that the media do some thorough work on what drives our newest MP to be.

A comment from Truth Seeker under this post says it’s the list equivalent of a loyal MP in a safe seats being asked to stand aside so a new party leader can take a seat in the House”.

 

But there’s one important difference – if an MP who holds a seat stands aside there has to be a bi-election which lets the people decide. Three people who were ranked ahead of Norman on the list in 2005 had to stand aside to let him into parliament – that’s the party hierarchy playing politics not democracy.

 

 

 

 


There go the principles

June 4, 2008

Mike Ward has agreed to forgo his right to enter parliament when Nador Tanczos retires shortly so that Green Party co-leader can take his place.

The Herald quotes Norman as saying “Principle has surrendered to politics.”  while attacking Labour at the weekend. What about the principle of party list ranking before elections not between them, is it okay to be expedient about them if it means you’ll get the benefits of campiagning as an MP?


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