Double-tracking

datePosted on 12:24, March 3rd, 2011 by Lew

Danyl Mclauchlan posits a conspiracy theory:

there is a pretty great opportunity to use the Maori seats to rort the system: if you had two Maori Parties, one that ran electoral candidates in six out of the seven electorates and only canvased for electorate votes, and another that had a safe seat in the seventh electorate and only canvased for party list votes in the other regions then you could, conceivably, end up with a dozen MPs (albeit with some overhang due to your electorate imbalance) and hold the balance of power in perpetuity.

Danyl’s scheme is essentially what the Greens tentatively proposed before the last election: green voters in Māori electorates consider casting electorate votes for the māori party candidate, and māori party voters cast their party vote for the Greens. The proposal was rejected by the māori party, which at the time was (in my view) a tactical error but a wise strategic choice.

It was a tactical error because of the efficiency argument (a positive-sum alliance permitting the two parties to extract more parliamentary representation from the same base of electoral support). But without the benefit of hindsight it was a good strategic move because the māori party’s whole point was not to be shackled to the ‘Pākehā’ parties, and its long-term survival still likely depends on its establishing its own persistent powerbase; one which could stand a chance of surviving even the abolition of the Māori seats. The only way to do that is to grow the party vote by strengthening ‘brand’ support among its electorate. (Also the proposal was made quite late in the campaign, and the potential for voter confusion was high.)

Those factors which made the plan a strong strategic risk for the māori party in 2008 now no longer obtain, or at least not so strongly. It has largely sacrificed its independence from the Pākehā political mainstream anyway, and could potentially lose considerable support for that reason. It may hang onto electorates, but it is likely that ‘brand’ support is lower than before. So with the benefit of hingsight, they might as well have gone with the Greens last time. Nowadays, they have a radical wing-man in Hone, who will work with them and who shares, despite all the rhetorical ructions, considerable common ground with the party’s other members and its foundational kaupapa. They can work together; Hone working to attract the ‘brand’ support for an independent indigenous party, the existing māori party maintaining their electorate positions and continuing to work within the mainstream.

I’m not convinced this will happen — as the Richards say in comments to Danyl’s post, a lot of it is personality-bound — but it could work in principle.

There’s one other factor, though. Although ACT and National have been collaborating in this way since Rodney Hide was gifted Epsom, the moment the māori party and a new radical wing led by Hone start doing it, the headline will be “Maaries rorting democracy to establish an apartheid state”. Those who’ve been benefiting from this sort of positive-sum electoral coordination for years will be those most urgently banging that drum and waving those banners. That’s a powerful disincentive.

Edit to add: Of course, there’s also a referendum on MMP on the day of the election. A scheme such as this would be an outstanding means of undermining MMP’s popular support and endangering its future.

L

6 Responses to “Double-tracking”

  1. TBD on March 3rd, 2011 at 13:58

    It could happen, but it probably won’t.

  2. Graeme Edgeler on March 3rd, 2011 at 14:55

    Although ACT and National have been collaborating in this way since Rodney Hide was gifted Epsom, the moment the māori party and a new radical wing led by Hone start doing it, the headline will be “Maaries rorting democracy to establish an apartheid state”.

    The two are not remotely similar. National and ACT may have been working together to ensure that votes aren’t wasted, but that is very different from the proposal to distort proportionality by doubling up votes.

  3. Lew on March 3rd, 2011 at 14:57

    Graeme, what? The proposal is to coordinate electorate v party votes to produce an advantage. just because National and ACT did so with a nod and a wink doesn’t fundamentally change the goal.

    L

  4. Graeme Edgeler on March 3rd, 2011 at 15:48

    That’s not the goal of the National/ACT accommodation. In the National/ACT accommodation National and ACT both seek to maximise their party vote, including to the extent of taking votes off each other. The accommodation merely allows ACT to take one electorate seat from National (which doesn’t add to or detract from National’s overall numbers in the House) to allow the voters who voted for ACT to be represented in proper proportion.

    The suggestion with the Maori Party and The Real Maori Party is to funnel party and electorate votes in such a way as to distort the proportionality of Parliament, giving the voters undertaking it a disproportional say in the make-up of the House.

    That is the ~48.5% people involved in the National/ACT accommodation get to decide ~48.5% of Parliament (how much of that 48.5% is National MPs and how much is ACT MPs is up to them). The ~3% of people in the Maori Party/Real Maori party accommodation get to decide the make-up of 6% of Parliament.

    Now, I do have a problem with the electoral seat life boat, but these things are not analogous.

  5. Lew on March 3rd, 2011 at 16:05

    I see the distinction you make, Graeme, but I don’t really accept it’s that important a difference. I see this as more like a preference deal such as is common in transferable voting systems.

    Nevertheless, I agree it’s not politically practical.

    L

  6. SPC on March 6th, 2011 at 23:25

    The MP and any party Hone Harawira was part of forming would be competing for votes on the party list, so this would be comparable to ACT in Epsom and Dunne in Ohariu (he’s only in a Ministerial position to offer cross party support for partial asset sales – allow National a back door rationale for going beyond their own manifesto where they want to go anyway – and to retain the seat and possibly gain a second MP).

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