Written By: - Date published: 4:50 pm, May 26th, 2015 - 25 comments
Categories: electoral systems, Parliament, political parties, Politics, social democracy - Tags: accountability, elections, Parliament, politics
Here’s the link to the UK legislation. It was brought in by the Tories and Lib/Dems to safeguard against one of the coalition partners (Lib/Dems) being done over by the other (Tories). It has had some unintended and rather positive consequences.
With a fixed term parliament, no sitting government can game an an upcoming election by choosing a date that coincides with propitious events. Election dates are set.
With a fixed term parliaments act there is no need for backroom deals to cobble coalitions or confidence and supply arrangements…and no wee shits scrambling for any beads of office.
Here’s how it works.
A party gains 50% + of a parliamentary vote to form the next government. Unless a given percentage (75% in the UK) of parliament subsequently votes to dissolve parliament after a discrete and precisely worded vote of ‘no confidence’, the term of parliament plays out.
If a government fails to get 50%+ approval for a budget, or any other piece of legislation, it simply goes away, looks at the parliamentary arithmetic and tweaks its proposals in such a way as to ensure 50%+ of the parliamentary vote.
There are a few things worth noting.
With no need for coalitions, the infantile fixation by media on ‘five headed hydra’s’ or instability and such like, disappears. And with no ‘baubles of office’ up for grabs the influence of the Winston Peter’s and Peter Dunne’s of this world diminishes.
If we look at the Clark government of 2002 under fixed term legislation, obviously, a snap election couldn’t have been called in the first place. But much more importantly, The Progressives (2 seats) and United Future (8 seats) couldn’t have elevated their influence to the detriment of the Greens (9 seats) and NZ First (13 seats).
Presumably, Labour would have formed the government having gained a 50%+ parliamentary vote of confidence. Labour would then have filled all cabinet posts and brought its programme to the floor of parliament. If necessary, there would have been honest and transparent changes, on an issue by issue basis, made to any Labour proposal that couldn’t gather 50% + of votes.
Sometimes, that would have meant Labour negotiating with either of the Greens, NZFirst, UF, The Progressives or any combination thereof.
All parties, at least initially, get to maintain their core policy positions – including the government party. There is far less scope for horse-trading, stand-over tactics or pork barrelling. For example, it’s possible (I’m not saying this actually happened) that the Greens had their influence diminished in relation to other parties in 2002 as a consequence of refusing to compromise their position on GE. Under a Fixed Term Parliament, the Greens could have held that position and it would have had no detrimental impact on their influence within parliament.
Unlike at present, any negotiations arising from ‘issue by issue’ politics would more likely be in the open; they wouldn’t be carried out behind closed doors or in draughty corridors by parties otherwise ‘gagged’ or ‘bought off’ by formal arrangements.
Now, wouldn’t that be good for the public’s perception of parliamentary governance, particularly when casting an eye on matters such as openness and honesty? I don’t know what NZ media would do if they were robbed of their ‘Kingmaker’ headlines though….