Saturday, 30 July 2011

Democracy for all

This from No Right Turn:
Greater Wellington Regional Council has decided to move to STV from 2013. Good. STV is a much fairer voting system than the bloc-vote usually used in local body elections (which is in effect a "winner take all" for a narrow plurality). Meanwhile, I'm just hoping Palmerston North City Council, which is considering a similar move, will make the right decision and adopt a fair voting system”. [Quote ends]
This is a victory for common-sense and one that I believe should happen here in Palmerston North. Democracy is not a static concept but is a living and changing activity. While some will attempt to restrain progressive changes to the accepted process of course democracy has its faults and some will seek to use those faults for their own purposes.
For years in NZ the system of first past the post was used to favour rural electorates who had fewer voters than city or urban electorates. In fact only once or twice has a party received over fifty percent of the total votes cast. The highest was the Labour Party’s victory back in the thirties when it gathered 54%.
As Grayling points out, “Democracy is only respectable when it can be made to work effectively and, even more importantly, fairly”. The goals are stable government, accommodating minorities and individuals, plus including majority interests.

A balance of MMP for national elections [which fairly represents parties] and STV for local government [which fairly represents individuals] seems to me like a sound balance.
While NZ slowly moves toward this balance other countries seem to be disenfranchising voters, for example the US which likes to see itself as the home of democracy but is slowly but surely removing the right to vote especially for the black and poorer citizens. The last term of Brush was clearly brought about by the disenfranchising of hundreds of thousands of black voters in key states.     
Of course a condition of genuine and effective democracy is an informed electorate and some major political parties and key individuals don’t actually want this to happen and that is a major concern. What they concentrate on is ‘Why not to change’ rather than the greater good. To them democracy takes second place to retaining power for they concentrate on the negative rather than the positive. Thousands of people have died advancing democracy and they deserve better from us for whom they died.

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