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.”
“Low-quality quality political representation often leads to low quality economic policy. That is certainly what we see out of closed-door MMP coalition negotiations, such as New Zealand First securing a billion-dollar pork-barrel fund for regional pet projects.”