Shock horror right wing think tank thinks NZ not very democratic

Written By: - Date published: 10:04 am, January 18th, 2018 - 74 comments
Categories: accountability, australian politics, blogs, David Farrar, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, democratic participation, dpf, Globalisation, International, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, us politics - Tags:

The usual suspects are touting a report that suggests New Zealand is not very democratic, and ranks 39th in the world behind such democratic heavyweights such as Guatemala, Kiribati, Panama, and Colombia. Top ranked nation is Ireland, and our Australian neighbours are ranked fifth. The United States is ranked 44th although I would not necessarily disagree with this particular ranking.

Newly declared and totally impartial Constitutional Lawyer and electoral reform campaigner Jordan Williams had this to say:

New Zealand’s mediocre ranking in a new index of electoral freedoms is embarrassing and shows the need for electoral reform, says constitutional lawyer and electoral reform campaigner Jordan Williams, who is now the Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

Mr Williams said, “New Zealand usually performs well on indexes of economic strength, non-corruption, and general freedoms, but the first World Electoral Freedom Index (WEFI) identifies an area for serious improvement.”

“New Zealand is ranked 39th of 198 countries. That’s behind Australia (5th), the United Kingdom (9th), India (20th), and even Kiribati (29th) and Guatemala (34th).”

“While the report says we perform well in two of the four indexes, we are let down by our limited Passive Suffrage Freedom (ranked 105th) and Elector Empowerment (ranked 112th).”

“This report suggests New Zealand has far too many restrictions around candidate participation, campaign freedom, and accountability. Further, voters lack powers to directly change laws or oust elected representatives.”

“This result is embarrassing for a country that leads the world in many areas. But under MMP and current electoral laws, it’s inevitable. We could improve our standing in next year’s index by taking the best of overseas electoral systems – perhaps an upper house to keep Parliament in check, recall elections, and a way for citizens to initiate binding referenda.”

“It is a real failing that voters have no tools to recall elected officials who totally go off the reserve. List MPs are accountable to parties, not directly to voters and even a mayor like Len Brown could not be sacked. The proposed ‘waka-jumping’ law is likely to see us fall further in these rankings.”

And the opposition’s pollster has repeated the claims uncritically.

The report is compiled by the Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty. This organisation is a Spanish based private entity and clearly believes in the sanctity of the market and the importance of individual freedom. The vision of the foundation is that of “prosperous human societies, organized through the spontaneous order of culture and market, and respectful of all of their members’ individual freedom.”

The report has been funded privately, untainted by the stain of public money.  From the report:

No taxpayer money has been used for the research work, the physical production of this report or its distribution.  All financial and other resources used have been voluntarily given by private donors.

So why did New Zealand do so badly? After all I thought our democracy was pretty robust.

The report generally scores countries in four different areas and the ranking depends on the sum of the individual scores.

New Zealand did well in two of the four areas.  In Political Development we were ranked 8th in the world and 4th in active sufferage.  But we were ranked 105th in Passive Suffrage and 112th in Elector Empowerment.

It appears the report writers hate MMP.  Again from the report:

In fact, only Ireland, which leads the 2018 ranking, reached an outstanding level of electoral freedom, slightly exceeding the 80 points out of a maximum possible 100. Among other virtues, Ireland is one of the few countries with a single transferable vote system, which, according to the recently deceased professor Sartori, is the purest of all, and, in his opinion, perfectly proportional.”

It is bizarre that MMP which is as proportional a system that you can imagine should be marked down and STV considered to be the most proportional of systems.  This would however explain Australia’s high ranking and why Germany, ranked 64th in the world, was ranked so low.

The other ranking New Zealand did poorly in, the elector empowerment index appears to have been because the power of referendums is poor and there is no direct ability to recall elected members.  But this appears to be a rather theoretical scoring of constitutional provisions rather than an active assessment of individual’s powers.  New Zealand ranked below Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, Ghana, Israel, Kosovo among other nations.  You have to wonder about the appropriateness of the marking or the design of the test.

No doubt the right will use this as further evidence that the last election result was a travesty and National should be in power.  In their minds 44% of the electorate has priority over the other 56% mainly because the 44% is their 44%.

But I hope the media treat this particular report with a great deal of scepticism.  And check into how the result was achieved before quoting its conclusion.

74 comments on “Shock horror right wing think tank thinks NZ not very democratic”

  1. Stuart Munro 1

    I guess the subtext is that the Gnats are relying on buying some more waka jumpers, having exhausted the possibilities of support parties.

  2. Muttonbird 2

    I assume by “campaign freedom”, Williams means the ability for private money to enter politics in a big way, unrestricted and undetected.

    Also not sure how promoting a host of binding citizen-initiated referenda sits with the mission of the Taxpayers’ Union to keep the costs of government down.

  3. Ed 3

    Maxim Institute often on RNZ without any mention of their bias.

  4. red-blooded 4

    Frankly, the idea that any FPP-based system should score more highly than a proportional system makes this report highly suspect, IMHO. And one would have thought that the four descriptors could (at least) have been weighted, according to their usefulness and importance. After all, how often does the electorate need to recall an MP?

    • Anon 4.1

      STV has it’s place, would be better than FPP for electorates, and better than status quo if we insist on retaining a threshold for party votes.

  5. Wensleydale 5

    So basically… “MMP makes it harder for our grasping, venal friends in the National Party to get re-elected, therefore democracy is ruined.”

    You lost. Suck it up and move on with your lives. It’s getting embarrassing.

  6. Sanctuary 6

    The Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty appears to be yet another astroturf Hayekian far right libertarian think tank funded through a web of similar organisations, particularly a certain “Atlas Network” (there is a clue in the title). The Atlas network was set up back in the day by a libertarian British guy called Antony Fisher, who was a buddy of Hayek and lived next door to Milton Friedman, and Fisher was a member of all the usual suspects like the ultra-libertarian Mount Pelerin Society.

    This particular outfit, as far as I can tell from the Spanish language bios, has a heavy representation of anti-Castro Cubans and they exist largely to tell South Americans and Spaniards off for not appreciating Pinochet.

    According to Source Watch “…major Atlas donors have included the Koch Foundation, ExxonMobil, MasterCard, John Templeton, Donors Trust, and the American government. The Atlas Network began with the Institute of Economic Affairs, which was established by Antony Fisher in 1955, and has grown into a consortium of “450 think tanks around the world.” Through these think tanks, the Atlas Network distributed over $5 million in 2016, and nearly $30 million since 2009…”

    in other words, Jordan Williams loves the Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty because like the Taxpayers Onion it represents no one and nothing beyond the interests of libertarian billionaire funders, and he’d love some of that sweet, sweet hidden cash.

    Otherwise, nothing to see here. far right libertarian propaganda is doing what it always does, citing itself through a web of fake and astroturf organisations to further the interests of the .001%.

    • Ross 6.1

      The Taxpayers Onion? I must confess that when I hear Williams and Farrar pontificating, it makes me want to cry.

    • greywarshark 6.2

      Taxpayers Onion, very poignant, I wondered why its mention always bring tears to my eyes. Damn Ross, he was too fast for me – I step aside to the winner.

      • mickysavage 6.2.1

        Im sure they chose to call themselves a Union to annoy the feck out of progressives …

        • NZJester 6.2.1.1

          The fact they call themselves Tax Payers instead of Tax Dodgers I think annoys us more than them using Union in their name.

          • greywarshark 6.2.1.1.1

            Tax Payers! It plays to a myth that only the wealthy support the country, paying to the government like charity givers and so superior about their supposed largesse and value to the nation. It ignores the supposedly universal GST set at a rate that they were paying in Switzerland when I was there in the 60-70’s, and totally unsuitable as a tax rate for our type of economy.

            And it ignores how tax has been organised, with the provision for untaxed transport to work allowance, tool allowance etc. which was helpful to employed workers being removed – while independent tradesmen had different settings. And it was to make tax simple? Just at the time we got computers that could do anything in a matter of milliseconds. Simple? I think they think that we don’t think because we are simple. Maybe they are right, or just get distracted too easily when required to face multiple challenges.

            Families had rates worked out on tax tables like F1, F2, etc with less tax until about F5, and that was automatic and ao did not need a special provision like Working for Families tacked on like an extra.

            And of course tax lawyers can organise financial matters so that little tax is paid by wealth creators. I remember one year one POTUS paid no income tax when in power. What a good example to the people of how capitalists behave quite legally and supposedly, ethically.

            Union of course is sort of sneering and satirical in its use by the TU. But they are as we know a very strong union in truth. Only they wouldn’t know truth, they can’t handle the truth!

        • The Fairy Godmother 6.2.1.2

          And it’s so dishonest, I’m a taxpayer but they don’t represent me and have never invited me to join. Perhaps some of us should try. That would be funny.

  7. repateet 7

    What is electoral freedom? Is that when you have independent reports and recommendations from independent commissions and give them to Judith Collins who says, “Up you, I can’t be bothered” ?

    And then have people like David Farrar and Jordan Williams grizzling about our lack of electoral freedom?

  8. Sanctuary 8

    “…And then have people like David Farrar and Jordan Williams grizzling about our lack of electoral freedom..?”

    Basically they are two entitled white guys who think they know everything. I wouldn’t worry to much about what they say.

  9. greywarshark 9

    “a new index of electoral freedoms” birthed by Jordon Williams who does the wailing that a human infant would supply. The finale of the post critiquing the index explains it all obviously.

    …No doubt the right will use this as further evidence that the last election result was a travesty and National should be in power. In their minds 44% of the electorate has priority over the other 56% mainly because the 44% is their 44%…

    It appears the report writers hate MMP. Again from the report:
    In fact, only Ireland, which leads the 2018 ranking, reached an outstanding level of electoral freedom, slightly exceeding the 80 points out of a maximum possible 100. Among other virtues, Ireland is one of the few countries with a single transferable vote system, which, according to the recently deceased professor Sartori, is the purest of all, and, in his opinion, perfectly proportional.”

    It is bizarre that MMP which is as proportional a system that you can imagine should be marked down and STV considered to be the most proportional of systems. This would however explain Australia’s high ranking and why Germany, ranked 64th in the world, was ranked so low….

    The report is compiled by the Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty. This organisation is a Spanish based private entity and clearly believes in the sanctity of the market and the importance of individual freedom.

    The vision of the foundation is that of “prosperous human societies, organized through the spontaneous order of culture and market, and respectful of all of their members’ individual freedom.”

    The report has been funded privately, untainted by the stain of public money. From the report:

    Utopian with a twist of piquant lemon from the RW tree. And being funded privately does not mean anything these days when what comes out of the privates, well it is just using a bit of the excess money sloshing over the side of the barrels that governments have supplied.

  10. Ross 10

    The problem might be – 9 years under Muldoon, 9 years under Bolger, 9 years under Key and English. If we dont have as much electoral freedom as others it might be because its not a priority for the Right.

    • ropata 10.1

      RWNJ only want some democratic window dressing to cover up their true intentions of pillaging the nation and the people, then they can justify themselves with talk of a “mandate”

    • Hornet 10.2

      And the intervening periods of 15 years under Labour led governments? Be serious, please.

      • Ross 10.2.1

        Hmmm 27 years versus 15 years…you clearly think the numbers are comparable. And when you consider the Lange government was probably more right-wing than some Tory governments, you might realise where the problem lies.

  11. Booker 11

    I think the bigger question is why the media pass on these press releases from the taxpayers union as valid news.

  12. greywarshark 12

    They are sure to promote controversy on TS and result in clickbait for the smeedia!

  13. Chris 13

    Constitutional lawyer my arse. The guy’s listed as an in-house lawyer for the taxpayers union – his own phony outfit. Who the heck else would take him on? Was interesting how quickly his name disappeared from the Franks Ogilvie site when Dirty Politics blew up. Even filthy Franks didn’t want him. Shame because Williams would’ve felt right at home there.

  14. CHCOff 14

    The fundamental problem of political democracy alone is that of the expression of the democratic idea through centralised decision making.

    This is inherently a contradiction.

    Secondly, the integration of shared stockholder mass decision making expertise to technically specific practicalities is the other contradiction which wastes alot of time & resources to ridiculous extremes, and is in strak contrast to the natural funcitioning of pratical everyday life in any society.

    Churchill is famously attributed to having said that democracy is a terrible system, but its better than all the alternatives.

    That’s only half true on both accounts; there are far worse ( or base ) systems than democracy as is widely thought of, there is not a lack of better or mutually complimentary alternatives within the democracy framework of government itself.

    The problem is really one of deeply ingrained human social habit, that goes back to the transition from subsistence direct cause and effect social systems relative to nature, to the ever increasing cushion from this that is provided by technological application to the elements of nature.

    A somewhat counter balancing adaption to the aspects or elements of ruling corporate structures that can be so distended and deranged resulting from this deeply rooted issue in the modern age would be gender equality in corporate culture.

  15. Tanz 15

    When you have one small party with barely seven percent of the vote and no electorate seat being in the position of choosing the govt (and having one hundred percent of the power over the two large partys who both polled in double digit figures), then anyone with a brain would know that MMP is a screwy system. Just wait till it doesn’t work for Labour, very possibly at the next election (due to not enough support partners), we’ll wait and see how many on the left still just love MMP then…as I have always said, had the shoe been on the other foot, and Labour had actually won the election, but Winston had chosen National, the howls of outrage at such an undemocratic outcome from the left would be deafening…but it’s always different when it suits the left, isn’t it. One thing, at least National kept their scruples, and did not sell their soul for the box seat position. Short term pain, long term gain. The electorate will reward National for their principles alone. Seven percent and Labour gave him Deputy PM and Foreign Minister plust a huge amount of portfolios. Winston really played Ardern and co, and continues to do so. Waka Jumping Bill, what an outrage, for starters. Unbelievable, the cheek.

    • Muttonbird 15.1

      That’s funny. A party with 0.69% of the vote and a sweetheart deal in Epsom chose the government last time. I’m sure you were apoplectic about that.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.1

        You know what the funniest part is? Tanz voted for Winston.

        • Muttonbird 15.1.1.1

          I don’t see the problem with the waka-jumping thing. These MPs use the party machinery and resources to get elected. If they then turn against the party, then out the freaking door they go. If Tanz thinks that is the outrage then she’s been living under a rock for some years now. Oh, wait…

          • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.1.1.1

            I see the problem with the waka jumping thing: it impinges on the sovereignty of Parliament. That’s why I think it’s appropriate only where list MPs are concerned. Their contract with the electorate is dependent on their party affiliation.

          • greywarshark 15.1.1.1.2

            Muttonbird
            +1
            I think standing as an MP under one party’s banner and then wanting to jump ship whether you are list or electorate should be something not allowed. It is something that would further destroy faith in the political system.

          • mickysavage 15.1.1.1.3

            I don’t see the problem with the waka-jumping thing

            I don’t either. If your position depended on support from a party then there should be an expectation that you will support the party’s principles.

        • Tanz 15.1.1.2

          yeah, and I gladly admit that. So I was suckered, like the rest of NZ First Voters, or at least half of them. We all make mistakes! It would be funny if it wasn’t so very bad for the country. The scoundrel lied. Bye bye Kingmaker.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.1.2.1

            You only admitted it once I called you out. Before then you were busy telling everyone it was “obvious” that Winston was colluding with Labour “from the start”.

            Be that as it may, I’m delighted you’re still trying to get people to listen to your delusional gobshite. That’s for nothing, now do something.

          • solkta 15.1.1.2.2

            So you voted for the only party that refused to commit to who they would go into coalition with and now you are pissed that they went with the grouping that was able to give them more of their policy. Not something i would normally say on this site, but fuck you are stupid.

          • Psycho Milt 15.1.1.2.3

            yeah, and I gladly admit that. So I was suckered, like the rest of NZ First Voters…

            “Suckered,” you call it? You wanted a National government and chose to express that preference by voting for a different party that features little policy overlap with National. That’s not “being suckered,” that’s “being an imbecile.”

      • Tanz 15.1.2

        The difference being, Muttonbird, is that National also won that election, therefore a National govt was also then what the majority wanted, but Act did not have National over a barrel as Winston did with both Labour and National this time. He called all the shots and acted as though he had a huge mandate. Big diff. Act do as they are told, as per their tiny vote percentage. That’s why I don’t complain. National had the moral mandate to govern then, as they also did this time, no matter who Winston chose. Simply more votes to National, yet again.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.2.1

          Winston has your mandate 😆

          • Tanz 15.1.2.1.1

            He’s broken every promise so far. He doesn’t care about mandates, only baubles and power. He gained votes by those lies, and he also implied pre-election that he was going with National. But silver cloud, always, he won’t be any sort of ‘maker’ again! A betrayer to his base and many of his voters. No wonder he feels he has to change our electoral law with such rubbish as the waka jumping bill – that says so much; he trusts no one, not even his own.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.2.1.1.1

              You can’t even recognise your own incompetence. PT Barnum rents space in your head.

            • Jimmy Ramaka 15.1.2.1.1.2

              73% of NZF voters preferrred a Labour/NZF Coalition so I guess 27% were unhappy or not unhappy with the result ?

        • Muttonbird 15.1.2.2

          National didn’t win that election with 47%, numb-nuts. What they did was form a government with three partners, two of which they have since destroyed, and the other from which they continue receiving fellatio.

          • Tanz 15.1.2.2.1

            They outpolled Labour, the other major party. Therefore more people wanted National than Labour. Our convention has always been the highest polling party is govt. In fact, National outpolled both Labour and the Greens. How is it possibly democratic that second place gets to be govt over first? And National have most of the electorate MPs. But just twist it to suit you, that is all the left ever do. End of the day, National still lead in the polls, that must be a worry to your side. The majority still prefer blue.

            • Psycho Milt 15.1.2.2.1.1

              How is it possibly democratic that second place gets to be govt over first?

              Maybe you should get yourself a children’s book on how Parliament works and how elections work, and maybe a simple maths book that explains what percentages are, then perhaps you won’t ask such embarrassingly stupid questions in future.

            • Brian Tregaskin 15.1.2.2.1.2

              Well Tanz call it a revolution –the election was stolen from a party (Born to rule) that had only 44% of the vote, You lost, get over it and move on -the world is not black and white. National are likely a generation away from regaining power. The big issue with them is their policies actually work against even most of the voters that vote for them. My money is National out for at least three terms to perhaps a kinder to the people National emerges out of the ashes.

              • Wensleydale

                We’ve had “kinder to the people National” before. It’s essentially the same old diseased cadaver shuffling around with a crude latex mask stapled to its decomposing face. Anyone who has been paying attention for the last three or so decades knows exactly what National are and who they represent. And they’re only ever kinder to the people if it serves their own interests, and never for very long.

            • Jimmy Ramaka 15.1.2.2.1.3

              You obviously still do not understand MMP and you are a TROLL ?

            • Obtrectator 15.1.2.2.1.4

              “Our convention has always been the highest polling party is govt.”

              Exactly so. It’s a convention, not an immutable rule, or law.

              Conventions by their very nature are always at risk of being disregarded. (Such as, for instance, the one that the person holding the office of POTUS comports himself with some degree of dignity and restraint.)

            • KJT 15.1.2.2.1.5

              What is so hard to understand that 56% of voters got the parties they wanted in power. If National had got in with NZ first 51% of voters would have got the parties in that they wanted. Either would have been a legitimate result under MMP rules, but 56% is more of a majority than 51%.
              Especially as a majority of NZF voters wanted Winston to go with Labour.

    • The Fairy Godmother 15.2

      Sigh! this is so dumb. National, Act, Labour and the Greens had all decided who they would go with. NZ First was the last one to make up their minds. Everyone decided, just not at the same time and not as fast as our short attention spanned media would like That’s democracy.

  16. adam 16

    Recalling MP should be standard.

    I’d like to suggest we start with Denise Lee, it been how many months since the election, and still no electoral office. Apart from Madin speech, all she been doing is eating her lunch.

    The only way to contact this electorate MP is via email. This is piss poor for an electorate MP and we should have the right to vote this slacker out.

    Recall her, and lets have another election in Maungakiekie.

  17. Et Tu Brute 17

    One of our lowest scores is with “Passive Suffrage” at 69.5%, or 105th place globally.

    Passive Suffrage is the right to run for elected office, as opposed to Active Suffrage which is the right to vote for the elected office (we got 83.7% = goodish).

    What do you think is lowering our Passive Suffrage score? High cost of entering politics? Small voter base? Honestly not sure, but would be interested in opinions.

    • Thinkerr 17.1

      Dont know if you will see this. Ive been offline for a few days and its a late reply.

      Thanks for explaining this. It confused me.

      I would think it means that people cant stand any reasonable chance of getting into parliament without selling their soul to a major political party.

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