This election, we have the chance to do something really exciting. We get to vote in an MMP Government.

I know, I know, we’ve had MMP in name since 1996, after not one, but two referenda on the issue. In spite of this, in practise, we’ve pretty much had a mostly-two-party system in the intervening nearly twenty years since then, with alternate National- or Labour-majority coalitions having the controlling voices in parliament.

Wow, twenty years is a long time. I was in Primary School when my parents’ generation campaigned to change our electoral system. I’ve been voting for a decade, and we still haven’t had a really equal coalition government.

But I am grateful to those of my parents’ generation who fought so hard to get us MMP, because it is a great system. We just need to trust in it and really utilise it.

First, I want to point out that National and the hard-right have always disliked MMP and have campaigned heavily in favour of FPP on and off the whole time we’ve had it (and before), through both fair means and foul. Notably, a recent failed campaign, Vote for Change in 2011, detailed in Dirty Politics (chapter: El Rushbo of Aotearoa).

So it should come as no surprise that one of National’s classic electioneering tactics (“You don’t know what government you get with MMP, but you do when you vote for National”) is being used again this election cycle, and discussed in the media with some frequency.

Paula Bennett is very much on message in this debate between her and Jacinda Ardern, where she tells Jacinda that Labour policies are unaffordable when combined with the Green Party’s. Jacinda, with a long history of standing up to PB, rightly points out that they are not part of the Green Party.

Likewise, Metiria Turei and Russel Norman are fielding lots of questions about their policies combined with Labour’s, which they have answered by saying that is a question for post-election discussions. Of course, the larger the slice of vote they get, the more they can push for, and it feels like the Green party is gathering momentum in a big way: they’re experienced, credible, and they have strong policy and a strong support base built up over years in parliament watching and learning.

(A quick note on Winston “King-maker” Peters, New Zealand First and the most recent polling. It is possible that he will end up having a deciding voice in the conclusion of post-election coalition discussions. But let’s remember that while almost every poll in the last election overestimated National’s support by around 5%, and Teflon John seems to be on a downward trajectory, the polling has been all over the place in the last few weeks and will continue to be. It is folly to assume that the kind of results we’re seeing now will hold, or as Russel Norman so very sensibly and truthfully says: “it’s dynamic at the moment”. Honestly, Patrick Gower, don’t you know about counting your polls before the election’s hatched?)

And Internet-Mana, those young upstarts (with Hone Harawera and Laila Harré respectively at the helms, and Dotcom providing the funds) have somehow turned into the rockstars of the election campaign if you listen to people who’ve attended their events. Not that you’d know that if you watched the news, because, you know, the party’s supposedly in chaos. But to my mind, what they’re achieving is pretty amazing — a lot of Internet-Mana supporters are young people whose voice was so conspicuously absent in the last election. If they’re attracted to vote in this election by the enthusiasm of the Internet-Mana message that politics is for everyone to participate in, then we all win. (“Only 5.2 percent of people aged 65 years or over did not vote in the 2011 General Election, compared with 42 percent of people aged 18–24 years” Statistics NZ.)

Chaos, obviously:

chaos

This election is more exciting than we’ve had in years.

It’s not just Internet-Mana and their new take on election billboards.

It’s not just Dirty Politics revealed.

It’s not because we have some minor parties in the pool who are strong, united and credible.

It’s not just because the Smiling Assassin is losing his grip on our fellow countrymen’s hearts and minds and being hounded by media and pressured like never before. (And don’t get me wrong, I love that people are finally seeing a little of the Key I’ve long suspected lurks in the background.)

It’s because we finally have a shot at the government we decided on twenty years ago but have never quite had. We finally have a credible group of political parties, who need each other and have to negotiate like never before. It might be a little slower to make decisions and pass law, but haven’t you heard? Slow and steady wins the race.

Because I want our politicians to have to talk things out and discuss them. I don’t want questionable laws passed under expediency. I don’t want our executive to override parliament. I definitely don’t want laws passed that are in conflict with the rule of law itself. And I don’t want a party in power that doesn’t know how to compromise.

It’s really important that there be active, thorough and rigorous debate around law and policy. A true coalition government could provide that.

A truly multi-party coalition, with a more even balance of power, can work to hold our elected officials to account — to hold each other to account.

And it’s not just debate and argument. For the first time, I think we’ve got a group of parties who actually might have more similarities than differences in their policy issues. They’re on the same page about a lot, never mind that it might be different sentences on that page. This is a good place to start in a negotiation.

Poverty, inequality, the environment, the economy, health and education are all on the table. And those are the key ingredients that make up the essence of the society we live in. Those are good things to discuss!

And that conversation will be an interesting one, not only because each party will need each other, but because they’ve all had a taste of the years of being in opposition together, and they’ve had to figure out how to work with each other with a controlling government who’d rather bully, belittle and avoid than be held to any kind of account or take any responsibility for issues raised. (Seriously, you should watch question time in parliament, if everybody did, I doubt the right honorable John Key would have ever had the nice guy reputation he held until recently; New Zealanders are not fans of arrogance at all.)

Bryan Bruce:
Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 11.32.41 AM

 

rowing

In National’s latest ad campaign, John Key and the National Party are doing what they’ve always done — using our electoral system to take a jab at the opposition parties. (The boat with the red, green and purple people in life jackets rowing in opposite directions. Yeah, we get it, National, it represents the opposition parties. Haw haw!)

But it goes further than that: it’s a jab at the MMP system that gives more people a voice and enables a diversity of participation that we fought for and we should actually embrace. More people get a chance for their voice to be heard! We get to explore the next phase in our democratic system! That’s awesome! It’s exciting! It’s not a problem; it’s the solution to one.

When National makes fun of MMP by proxy, they are not only making fun of the regular New Zealanders who worked hard in the past to bring us that system, but the inevitable and promising future of our chosen inclusive political system and utilising its best qualities: co-operation, compromise, communication and a shared vision of the future woven together from the many diverse points of view in New Zealand society.

No, it’s not always going to be easy, but maybe making new laws shouldn’t be as easy as it’s been under National for the last six years. I’m not sure how great some of those fast and easy laws are. Probably not that great if the “a body as authoritative and dispassionate as the Law Society feels forced to report to the United Nations that the Government in New Zealand is acting in conflict with the rule of law” (NZHerald).

So what sort of society do we want to be? Compromising and caring, working together to make something more than the sum of its parts?

Or a big group of bullies, who don’t listen, break the law, don’t care about half of us, try to trick us rather than woo us, and think they’re above the rule of law, while they race to the finish line leaving most of us struggling in their wake?

I know what I want.

A positive vote is a vote for any of the parties of the left right now, because they’re going to be part of building a co-operative future in politics, not one of bullying and standover tactics that leaves most of us struggling to keep up.

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