Friday, November 3, 2017

Gerry Eckhoff: We the people

NZ First Leader Winston Peters apparently made a unilateral decision to assume he was in charge of negotiations to form a new Government. 

Was he really in the pursuit of enhancing Parliamentary governance of the country or was he merely determined for reasons of self-interest, to advance the influence of a 7% party? 

We all knew that the special vote count would be similar in percentage terms to the last election so where is the value in all the delay and attention seeking by Mr Peters? And how does it help our country’s governance if policies already voted on by the public are then negotiated away or watered down in the process of forming a Parliamentary majority?

Within the context of our election, it is worth considering the preamble to the constitution of the United States of America and that enduring phrase – “We the people”.

The preamble goes on to state - “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for a common defence, promote general welfare and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity; do ordain this constitution”.

That statement surely resonates with all who choose to serve our country as law-makers in the New Zealand Parliament and require of them to obtain an electoral and a moral authority from “we the people” whether it is enshrined in a written constitution or not. New Zealand does not have a written constitution along with such countries as Britain and Israel. 

The expression “moral authority” implies such traits as integrity, honesty, transparency along with a high degree of open democracy from all our representatives. Most voters would demand these qualities as mandatory, even if some politicians don’t. Greens leader James Shaw needs to fully explain the circumstances where benefit and electoral fraud are an acceptable practise.

Every three years “we the people” of New Zealand decide who shall be given the right to govern us all. That right or mandate is not given to any singular politician or political party who has crept over the threshold of the 5% MMP rule.  Despite the options MMP has delivered us, the party with the strongest mandate should always form or at least attempt to form a Government by inviting other elected parties to join them. The alternative which we have all witnessed defies all logic and reason. It is simply not enough to offer the puerile excuse of - well that’s the way MMP works.

With 7.5% of the popular vote, Mr Peters has found his party to be in the happy position of being needed by both sides to ensure a parliamentary majority by either National or Labour. Surely that privilege requires an even higher standard of behaviour based entirely on an ethical approach to decision making. 

Mr Peters acted out a real life and real - time fantasy where he and he alone decided the outcome of the election. That’s a bit like a player saying after the game - while I was only on the paddock for 7 minutes of the game and despite never actually having any impact on the final score, only the side I now personally choose can win as I write the rules.  Mr Peters must realize that he is effectively suggesting that 93% of voters got it wrong –  that he and his 7%, rightfully ordain him to fulfil his great cause; never mind the wisdom of crowds.

Abe Lincoln's 10-minute address at Gettysburg spoke of Government of the people – by the people – for the people. Winston Peters addresses that proposition by saying that 7-8% of the popular vote is enough to decide the outcome of an election.   “I the person” decides -not 'we the people'.

Unlike malt whisky - a favourite tipple of many politicians - which matures and refines with age, it is not unreasonable to assume that Mr Peters has been left too long in the parliamentary barrel before a final bottling. The next three years will surely be his last in politics. His legacy deserves to be much better.

What then is the role of “we the people” under MMP. It seems to me that we have scored an own goal by allowing MMP to remain unscripted, to remain open to individual interpretation of the disaffected and to ignore years of conventional democracy that has yet to be shown to be past its use-by date.


Unknown said...

Yes, we have been delivered the anomoly of the lowest-scoring of the two main parties coming into power, but it is not just the two "first-past-the-post" parties that matter any more A larger proportion of our population seems to still think in terms of "winner and loser" which is not relevant any more. If National had been able to form a government it would have, but with no smaller parties left that were willing to negotiate with it, the writing was on the wall. Gone are the days when the smaller parties could have been forced to negotiate with the "winning" party - that was never an option anyway - imagine the very darkly left-wing Greens trying to partner with the increasingly right-wing National party. What a shambles that would be. Now we just have to stop the powder puffs from welcoming ex-jihadists back to NZ.

Anonymous said...

All I would suggest is that the "rules"of MMP MUST be changed during this term of the current coalition but I bet there is no appetite for this to be done. So in 3 more years the same stupid and un-democratical system will be used. WHO has the power to change this ?

Toby Norton said...

Mr Eckhoff speaks more sense on this subject than any other public figure. What has occurred in the sleazy back room negotiations to give us a non-representative government for the next 3 years is a travesty of democracy, no matter what your opinion of MMP may be.
Also, his telling comment on J. Shaw's approach to honesty and obedience to the law surely applies equally to all in public life who were afraid, or unwilling for some other reason, to condemn a public figure boasting of her activities that surely would have been found to be criminal had a prosecution been brought. I strongly applaud the stance of the 2 Greens MPs who took a stance against her squalid actions, but many more voices should have been heard.
The integrity of public life in New Zealand is on a downward spiral. Please do not let this country become "USA South".

DiDi said...

I found this article very confusing to read. Is the writer wanting FPP back again? Many of us that lived through it and it's power to one Party do not want to see a return to it. As regards Winston Peters, the writer seems to have missed the point that many of the NZ First Policies were more aligned with Labour than National yet both National and Labour announced these policies as their own. They definitely weren't but those in the know would realise that Winston's presence in the negotiations has already settled the ship. There was no question that NZ First had the power to decide the Government and handled it very well by focusing on Policy as the first step. Bill English saying we have X amount of seats and they only have 9 showed how out of touch and arrogant he was in the talks and no doubt would have reflexed in what was on offer. The final decision after the special vote results came in was very fast considering the complexity of a three way Government.

Owen dyer said...

look i think this may be the last of new zealand first ; if the half of their party ticks that
came from national supporters, withhold their support next time they wont make the threshhold

Oldie said...

So sorry that DiDi found Eckhoff confusing but perhps DiDi reflects the the many New Zealand voters that find MMP so confusing and anti-democratic.
There are many well tested alternatives to MMP (as operated here in NZ) and critiques of that process do not necessarily imply FPP as the only alternative.
Simply stated, New Zealand voters received what they deserve, will live with the consequences (because we hold strongly to the RULE of LAW) and will continue to be ruled by minority governments led by idealistic and ill-advised youth until the pain is too deep to bear.

Russ said...

The "Rules of Governance" need to change. Political Parties should cease to exist. 80 to 100 Independents and an elected PM would not necessarily give true democracy but it would certainly be truer than it is now.

PS - this could be fake news but I would put a wager on that Peters will undermine Ardern to the point of resignation...then it will be "arise Sir Winston Peters - PMONZ" :)

Unknown said...

Read your comment Rus and totally concur. Time for a rethink. After all we are employers when we vote in someone to represent our constituency but so few kiwis think that way.Like any employer you should check a CV, how many kiwi voters do that? You should check any adverse history to see if the candidate is fit to employ, How many kiwi voters do that. For instance, how many kiwi voters bothered to check on the history of the Jewish banker they voted in for the last 3 terms and find out he was setting up tax avoidance schemes for American corporations in Ireland when he worked in New York.
Would any other employer in this country put up with employing someone who's first priority was not loyalty to the firm and who take their instruction on how they are to perform their duties for their employer from a third party. People who vote for political parties do. The political party MP takes his orders and declares his loyalty to the party over the electorate (employer) all the time because if he didn't he would not get the endorsement for that electorate in the first place. Basically that voter is literally voting for a sycophantic flunky. What NZ voter considers that.
Parties are the problem and the only way to get a better result is to vote in an independent candidate. Preferably one who is a mentor in your electorate. Then people of true worth, intelligence, integrity, common sense,vision and imagination would be drawn to serve. True statesmen and women. People who would never put themselves through the sycophantic shit fight and back stabbing that is party politics.
Parliament, is it not,is nothing more than a big committee set up to administer the country just like your bowls club committee, rugby club committee or your knitting circle committee none of which function with parties involved. We don't need them. They are the problem.
If our naive indoctrinated electorate could embrace that system we would see a great nation emerge instead of the rudderless ship that it now is. Did anyone hear any political party in this election express a vision for this country in 60 years time. They have no goals to work toward or any long term vision for this land. Great nations do that.

KP said...

There was no necessity for Peters to be in power. All it would have taken was for Labour and National to form a coalition.
Their problem was they were far too infantile & precious for that, they would see it as one of them being the 'minor party', and they'd rather throw NZ to the wolves than do that.

There's nothing a parasite won't sacrifice to get his hands on the reigns of power.

Anonymous said...

Peters had the most conservative voting record of any political in parliament and many assumed he would go with National.
Someone warned me of the possibility of ‘utu’ and it seems they were right. Peters has broken all the promises that drew in disaffected National voters who will never vote forNZF again.
Jack b