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: jordan williams
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.
MEDIA RELEASE: International report says Kiwi voters lack electoral freedom – https://t.co/E3dbQXl2to
— Taxpayers' Union (@TaxpayersUnion) January 14, 2018
NZ not too high for electoral freedom https://t.co/0OEUdutyzT
— David Farrar (@dpfdpf) January 17, 2018
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.