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Political power after tomorrow's election

Political power after tomorrow's election

by Don Franks


One more day of shiny faced candidate posters. After weeks of campaigning the forced grins on election posters all start looking the same.

Excepting one, the poster headed: "The most powerful person in New Zealand"

Images in this poster series include a young guy in a hoodie, a weary looking butcher, an anxious looking young mother and child, several tattooed people.

None of them smiling. If you had to guess their situation you'd say hard working folks, probably not so well paid.

The slogan below each face reads " your vote is worth as much as anyone in the country - get out there and use it"

Each morning as I've jogged round the streets the posters have irritated me. A working life among tired looking low paid employees has taught me above all that such folks are not individually powerful.

The posters seemed to mock that obvious fact.

Then I though a bit and realised that the poster speaks truly, at least in its subtext. The street sweepers vote IS worth the same as the billionaire's. Once placed in the polling booth slot, the two votes carry equal

weight, once cast, they can't even be told apart.

So what's wrong with these posters?

The suggestion that, because of the vote, all citizens have equal political power. But it's after the election when real power is exercised.

After the election a rich person may want to develop a site or promote a product or become rid of a trade restriction. The rich person invites the relevant minister around to break bread. This invitation will be

readily accepted, the minister may well be a personal friend already . More to the point, the minister will be mindful of the many thousands of dollars the rich person kindly donated to the minister's party.

So when the rich person suggests over the quail eggs and champagne that the minister's government might possibly look at doing this or that, the minister will listen most carefully.

It is theoretically conceivable that the same idea might occur to the young guy in the hoodie. Let's get the minister round for tea. Not very likely, but it can be imagined. Harder to imagine is the minister accepting

the invitation to dine in a leaky flat where no quail eggs will be served. Harder still to picture is the minister nodding, winking and departing from the damp flat to place a word in the right ear.

Daily and hourly the rich lever the vast weight of their money to shape the society we live in. Once a radical innovation, universal suffrage has been circumvented by the power of money.

Yet the battered looking worker on the poster can become the most powerful person in New Zealand, although not by voting for parliament.

In combination, workers can effect change by striking and occupying workplaces.

Not easy to organise, but a viable way to win positive change after tomorrow's election.

ends

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