A tale of two elections

Well, that’s one election down. I found Wednesday exciting and emotional. We have known all year that history could be made in the US with the possibility of either a woman or Afro-American president being elected. Here in New Zealand everyone seemed to be hoping for an Obama victory and were openly delighted with the result.

Now we can shift attention to our own election – which occurs in Saturday!

There are big differences between these two elections – quite apart from their historic and international significance.Β  One feature I see as an advantage is the MMP system – the mixed member proportional representation we have in our Parliament. This means that we can elect a more representative parliament than under the old first past the post system where we sometimes found a party could be elected with less votes than the defeated party.

Advantages of MMP

Some people don’t like the fact that we now tend to have governments which are coalitions, or minority governments supported by agreements with smaller parties. However, I see that as an advantage. Government formation, and to some extent their legislative programme, now involves negotiation. There is more chance for the interests of all social groups to be represented.

Even parties which are outside a government coalition and/or have no support agreement can participate in the normal parliamentary processes. This also helps democratic representation. And there is not doubt that the composition of our parliament these days is far more representative than it use to be under the old fist past the post system.

Election of parliament – not government

So, personally, I don’t approach Saturdays election in terms of election of a government or Prime Minister – but in terms of election of a parliament. This means that I must consider all the political parties who realistically have a chance of representation – not just the National and Labour Parties.

I realise that single issues don’t usually determine an election – or individuals voting decisions. However, there’s no doubt that attitudes towards science are important for our country’s future. This is central to issues like our economy, threats to our agricultural industry, development of other industries and responses to climate change. All issues which people consider at election time. It’s worth, therefore, considering the science policies of the political parties.

Heraclides has suggested a link to the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) site www.VoteScience.org) which brings together science policy statments from the political parties. It also offers a commentary analysing these statements (NZAS commentary). The Science Media Centre also offers information on the science policies of the minor parties (Election 08: The minor parties on the big science issues and Election 08: 10 science questions for the Green Party).

Have a look if you are interested. But even if you aren’t – don’t forget to vote on Saturday.

See also the statements from the NZAS site:

Green party (2008)
Labour party (2008) interim statement
Labour party (2008) final statement
Maori party (2008)
National party (2008)
NZ First party (2008)
United Futures party (2008)
Progressive party (2008)
NZAS commentary on the party policy statements

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11 responses to “A tale of two elections

  1. *jealous looks from across the ocean*

    One day Canada will have a fair electoral system… one day…


  2. “the old fist past the post system



  3. An interesting thought occurred to me as I was reading Ken’s post. Perhaps the plurality of an MMP parliament provides some of the checks and balances that other countries (such as the USA) find in multiple branches of government. In other words, it is much harder (but not impossible) for one faction to achieve total power.

    If this is so, perhaps MMP is a more directly representative way of doing this.


  4. Off to the polling booth. Lovely day for a walk πŸ™‚

    But where’s the “Vote Science” party? We need a party for all scientists and like-minded people to put their party vote towards, who aim to stand as an in-parliament science advisory service for the nation. With (list) MPs representing each of the main branches of science relevant to NZ (Agriculture, Health, etc.), who aim to pick up the issues of the day from the house, bring to those issues the underlying issues and make parliament face them.

    Hell, we might even have a science-based “king-maker” party πŸ˜‰

    Next election, maybe…


  5. I’ll vote for you πŸ™‚


  6. Well… at least I’d get one vote! πŸ™‚

    I like the concept though. Its a bit like the science equivalent of the Greens, I guess.


  7. Maybe we could spend the next three years scheming a party up…

    Nick, I like the basic idea of MMP, but there a few wrinkles in MMP that I’d like tidied up all the same. For example, I think that just as there is a minimum threshold of votes for a party to be accepted, there should be a similar threshold for accepting an electoral candidate into parliament. In the past we’ve had candidates with literally fewer than a hundred votes against their name. In their case, in my opinion they’re essentially had a vote of no confidence from their own electorate, the people most likely to be able to judge them accurately.

    Likewise, ideally list candidates need some sort of vetting.

    The point I’m trying to get at is that in a small way part of the wishes of the voters are not represented accurately if appropriate checks are not in place.

    I believe MMP was introduced into Germany as a way of preventing any one party having complete power, post WWII–?


  8. Thats a good point about the list candidates. Although, one argument for the list was to enable the election of experts in fields other than the art of getting elected to gain power. However, as you say, the door is rather wide open for the election of the untested/unwanted.

    I am currently living in Germany, so the last point is interesting for me. I just did a quick search, and it looks as though a pure proportional voting system was used during the Weimar republic, but the MMP style (or something quite close to that) system started around 1949. I have not yet found any info on why the changes were made. I will try and ask some of my friends.


  9. Nick,

    I’m more concerned about list candidates when they are electorate candidates who have been brought in on the list as electorate candidates with no support have effectively been voted out, yet are in! I hope you’re getting my meaning here. These are people who put themselves up for electorate candidature, got a tiny number of votes, but were brought in via the list.

    Its potentially an issue with list-only candidates, too, but for the most part these people will have some sort of expertise, as you say.

    I’m pretty sure the reason for MMP in Germany is as I wrote, I’m just being “correct” by offering my doubt since its not my area of expertise. I have seen this written, though, in an article exploring MMP a number of years ago. I’m relying on the accuracy of the journo, hence my caution…!!


  10. Ahh, I get you now, regarding the list. When used in this fashion, it undermines the intention of having the electorate seats.

    And on the source of MMP in Germany being a post WW2 limitation of power , that sounds rational to me. I will ask a couple of people to see what the common knowledge on this is here.


  11. Nick, what did the locals say? I’d like to think that they’d be more on the money that a NZ journo! πŸ™‚


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