Posts Tagged ‘Representation’

Representational democracy is fundamentally flawed

datePosted on 16:35, January 19th, 2009 by Anita

Representational democracy in New Zealand necessarily fails entirely to live up to its name. With a hundred and twenty people representing four million or so, this should be obvious. It is a system that forces each voter to make a choice using only at most a few of their views. Which party, or which individual, represents the person who wants to ban genetically modified organisms and privatise the health system? 

Even if the party you vote for is elected, they will hold different views from you and they will vote in ways you would not wish them to. In short they are not representing you.

This not only makes the choice a futile one, but also impoverishes any sort of debate or conversation, because the debates are led by politicians who work within blocks, and are covered by a media which is unable to tease out the individual issues.

This futility, and the requirement to give your vote to a package of policies, means we end up giving far too much power to politicians, and keeping far too little for ourselves. Indeed giving this power to politicians is a mistake. We give people whose motivation is largely to gain power the ability to say they are representing us although they have no desire to listen to our individual opinions, and there is no framework to force them to. Three yearly elections do not allow us to hold politicians to account on individual issues, or even individual actions. 

The problem is not the frequency of our elections or the parties we are able to vote for, it is that the system itself does not allow for all of an individuals views to be represented. Every single one of us is effectively silenced on the majority of our views, and forced to listen politicians claiming to speak on our behalf.

Representing Pacific communities

datePosted on 05:09, January 8th, 2009 by Anita

I recently read an article by Anae Arthur Anae, National’s first Pacific Island MP. While it was written about 8 years ago, many of his points strike a chord when thinking about political representation of ethnic communities now.

  • He talks about his surprise, as National’s candidate for Auckland Central in 1993, that Pacific people in the seat voted along class and historic lines, rather than for a Pacific Island candidate.
  • As a list MP from 1996-1999 he struggled with the challenges of representing the PI community – geographically spread the length of the county, linguistically and culturally diverse.
  • His attempts to build cross-party forums with other PI MPs
  • The challenge to get Pacific issues understood and prioritised within a party focussed on the “economic situation”
  • The PI communities’ disappointment when National dropped him from 19 to 25 of the list “to make sure that the new intake was representative”

Anae tried to represent every Pacific Islander, whether they voted National or not, whether they were Samoan or not, even if they only thing they shared with him was Pacific heritage. At the same time he represented every National voter, everyone who shared his moral views, not to mention everyone in his neighbourhood.

We ask so much of our MPs, we ask them to represent every single one of us, to empathise with us, to understand us, to know where we come from, to be like us. Read the rest of this entry »

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