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Is it worth voting? – A debate for our times


Is it worth voting? – A debate for our times

In a world of ever-growing economic inequality and accelerating climate change, questions are being raised about the ability of the current political system to respond adequately to such complex challenges. Can a parliamentary system based on adversarial politics take significant action to re-distribute wealth and adopt a green economy, or have developments over the past few decades weakened the ability of law-makers to make the necessary radical changes to society? Does voting in a general election promise real change and democratic participation, or simply more of the same old party politics? What has happened to the major debates between Left and Right? Have these been replaced by a depoliticisation of political processes and their replacement by technical discussions about technocratic problems?

In a public debate chaired by Professor Kevin Clements (National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies), Dr David Clark (MP Dunedin North), Marian Hobbs (former Minister for the Environment), Dr Bryce Edwards (Politics Department, University of Otago), and Professor Richard Jackson (National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies) will explore whether the act of voting remains a meaningful exercise in democracy. Professor Jackson is clear in his position: “Voting is a largely meaningless ritual which expresses the form but not the content of democracy”, he says. “The political system is today largely incapable of helping us deal with climate change or inequality. Worse than that, the widespread belief that voting equals democratic participation actually infantilises and disempowers us as individuals. The idea that if we just vote for the right politician or political party, they will ride in to save us, is hopelessly misguided, in my view.”

On the other hand, the question remains: are there alternatives to voting? Can citizens participate meaningfully in politics apart from the current electoral system? Or, are there meaningful ways to reform the current political system to make it more responsive and responsible? The debate is open to all members of the public, and promises to be a lively and informative exploration of all these important issues.

When: 5:15pm, July 23, 2014
Where: Archway 2, University of Otago

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