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Things to consider before voting in the elections

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What even is this website? I moved from FASHUN to cultural (vultural) commentary, then it sorta became a travel blog due to me moving countries. I actually don’t know anymore. All I know is that I will continue to write about things which interest me, and that’s all I can promise.

As for the other half of the website (Steven), he’s super busy – here’s hoping he can write something about his CCO work soon (hint, hint).

Earlier this week I submitted my vote for the New Zealand elections via the website since I am currently residing outside of New Zealand in the metropolis that is Kuala Lumpur. This post was inspired by a Facebook chat I had with my friend Levi – he wanted to know the reasoning behind how I voted.

This led to the realisation that I haven’t seen anything which sets out a framework with which you might approach the decision as to how you will vote in the elections this year. I.e. what are the relevant considerations you should take into account in order to vote in a way that best reflects your views?

electoral commission screen

Image credit: elections.org.nz

So this is basically a summary of our discussion albeit more cogent (hopefully), and with better spelling (again, hopefully). I’m only going to set out the thought process that I used to arrive at the decision as to who to vote for, in the hope that this helps people with arranging all of the relevant information in a way that lets them make the best decision possible.

I think (well, I hope) this is largely a universal framework with which to approach voting which should apply regardless of your views on substantive matters in terms of your views of the world, the values you consider important, your views on the function of Government etc.

I’m not hugely political, and I don’t have a background in this area, so here goes. Apologies in advance for an errors or omissions.

 

I vote for the interests of New Zealand. 

Image credit: www.hrc.co.nz

Image credit: hrc.co.nz

This might seem self-explanatory, but I think there’s more to it. What this means to me, is that my personal circumstances (i.e. my income bracket, my age, my ethnicity, my gender, my interests, the industry that I work in, what I spend my money on) is not a relevant factor in terms of what I vote for, or the policies that I want.

For instance, if I were the richest man in New Zealand but I thought that higher trust and income taxes would be in New Zealand’s best interests overall, then I would vote for this notwithstanding the fact that this would probably have a negative impact on my personal wealth.

That said, it’s hard to be objective, and it’s entirely understandable to vote for things that would be your personal interest. But I hope I am able to uphold this principle so that the way I vote remains consistent, regardless of my personal circumstances.

[UPDATED 10 September 2014: my friend Joe noted his concern with this point, and (correctly) pointed out that there are 7 billion other people to consider outside the 5 million living in New Zealand. Only taking into consideration the people living in New Zealand would disregard matters like New Zealand’s refugee quota, trade policies, immigration and global issues like climate change.

I actually agree entirely with his point. I gave thinking of New Zealand’s best interests to contrast with voting with only your personal interests at heart, without meaning to exclude the wider globe we live in. I do personally look beyond the border and take into consideration broader issues (for instance meaningful development work by NZ, foreign policy, and besides environmental issues don’t respect national borders and lines on maps). I haven’t changed what I had originally written, but if I did it all over again I would change the title to “I vote for the wider interests of the world as a global citizen”.]

I’m not loyal to any political party.

Each political party will have a different vision of what they want New Zealand to be like, and they will also have completely different ideas as to how they want to get us there.  It goes without saying that as New Zealand changes, the vision for New Zealand and the roadmaps of how to get there offered by each of the parties will continue to change.

For those reasons, loyalty to a political party has never made much sense to me. Voting Party X because you always have, or because your family does is a) lazy, b) uninformed at best and c) makes about as much sense as voting for the colour red or blue. Unless you live in North Korea and you’d sent to prison for not being loyal or something.

 

Look through the parties’ policies, duh.

Image credit: www.sonoma.edu

Image credit: sonoma.edu

If you’ve managed to navigate all the way to this website and read down to here, I’m sure you’re capable of using google to find the respective parties’ policies on key issues, their manifestos (manifesti?) and election promises.

Ours.co.nz is an independent website produced by an eclectic bunch of young volunteers, who have taken the time to identify key issues leading up to the elections, and have helpfully summarised the political parties’ positions on important issues on their website here. It’s worth taking a look. (Disclosure: my friend Chris McIntyre is involved. Actually looking through the “About” page there are a few other people I know as well).

 

Look at their track record.

Parties can promise paradise, utopia, and they can promise the world on a silver platter but can they deliver on it?

show you the world

It goes without saying that this is a lot easier to do for the current ruling party. For the opposition and the other minor parties outside the ruling coalition, it becomes a guessing game of how well you think they’d do based on what they have done during their time as a member of the opposition.

Incidentally, have there been any mainstream news organisations that have bothered to run such an analysis, or are they too busy re-posting articles from the daily mail and viral videos from Buzzfeed days after it’s been all over our Facebook pages?

 

This is sort of a related point – rule of law.

Aaand the lawyer part of me comes out. There may be a party that perfectly aligns with your values and beliefs, has an impeccable track record on delivering on election promises, and you believe that them being in power would be in the best interests of New Zealand.  However, in order to deliver, they have silenced and threatened the media, removed or chipped away human rights such as the right to protest or the right to privacy, and they passed controversial new laws by bypassing the debate process and by disregarding the concerns raised by the people, and other officials.

Tl;dr – does the end justify the means?

To me, that is unacceptable no matter what the intention was or how good the results are, and completely inexcusable. I refer to you Dame Anne Salmond‘s opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald entitled: “A Warning to New Zealanders to Keep a Hold of Democracy”. I think her column very eloquently sets out some very real concerns in terms of the Government’s disregard for the rule of law, and the steady erosion of our democratic rights as a society.

 

The voting strategy.

Image credit: www.hiil.org

Image credit: www.hiil.org

So you’ve managed to read through all this (kudos), take everything above into consideration, and you think you have a general idea of which party best aligns with your values and would be able to deliver on it. The other thing very seldom talked about, is voting strategy. Cause it’s all a game, right?

To the politics majors, I apologise in advance – I will probably (definitely) get part of this wrong. I could Google this, read up about it, but it’s already really late and even with minor factual errors my point still stands so deal with it.

Under MMP, you are unlikely to get a party with an absolute majority in terms of seats (i.e. +50%  of the seats). Essentially, the party with the most number of seats/votes gets first dibs to form a majority coalition government. So they enter into negotiations with the minor parties to form a voting alliance of sorts so that they can form a 50%+ voting majority in Government.

In return for joining the coalition, the minor parties will bargain with the major party to get policies/laws/fudge-coated chocolate that they want. This is why the minor parties are so influential in New Zealand. Here’s an example of how this affects voting strategy:

In the lead up to the 2008 elections, National had a significant lead over Labour. Many left-leaning voters viewed this gap as insurmountable. If National won the election and they had voted for the losing majority party (Labour), then their vote would have no influence in terms of policies. If however they choose to vote for a left-leaning minor party which still largely accords with their values which might form a coalition with National, then through the coalition bargaining process, at least the minor party would have some influence over the policies of the reigning party.

However, this is incredibly self-fulfilling – in reality, National won with a clear margin, and Labour suffered one of its worst defeats in recent memory, and I am guessing in no small part to people voting strategically as above.

Conclusion.

This is just a framework, or a list of relevant considerations – you still need to do the homework, weigh this all up, play the MMP voting strategy game and vote. As long as you do vote.

 

– Chris.

Author: Chris Park

One half of the Park Brothers. Purveyor of banter, curator of misc. Manage comms for @BuoyandMine. Read More


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