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Scoop Column: UN Monitors Need For NZ Election Too

New Zealand loves nothing better than to certify other countries' election ballots as "free and fair" so there can hardly be any principled objection to a delegation of monitors, from democratic nations, taking up position, pen in hand, as New Zealand makes its "choice" at the coming election.

Afterall, the international community sends watchdogs to monitor foreign elections - that's just what New Zealand needs now.

In my opinion the fix is in: The special interests will pretend to have an election, and you, if you choose, can pretend to vote in it. The only recourse I can see is an appeal to the international community and the United Nations, to send accreditied observers to monitor the process.

Here are some of the questions that the UN and international monitors would have to consider before validating New Zealand's election '99.

1). Has there already been open purchase of candidates, as implied by the immense and largely secret donations amassed by the political parties?

2). Are there any unfair restrictions placed on independent candidates or minority parties?

3). If so, have those restrictions been imposed by a collusion of the exisiting major parties.?

4). Is access to the media fairly apportioned as between candidates and parties irrespective of wealth?

5). Does the allotment of government funds constitute a subsidy to a duopoly?

6). Does the withdrawal of candidates from electorates mean voters are disenfranchised?

These questions are not exhaustive. But it's already clear around the world that self-policing is not enough. It's also clear, to me at least, that the New Zealand mass media - chief recipient of the largesse provided, raised or spent by candidates - has simply abdicated its watchdog role in the election process.

For example, will you ever see the 28 independent candidates standing in this election interviewed on television? Or the very minor parties?

Some elements of the deficit of democracy in this country should have been put to the test long ago. The High Court ought to have heard arguments about whether campaign donations constitute common-law bribery. Hovever, these and other options are unlikely to be exercised unless the entire system is challenged in a thoroughgoing way.

A monitoring force from the international community seems to me to provide the best chance for such an alteration in perspective. What is needed, therefore, is an appeal from a large group of New Zealander's for such a monitoring force to be brought into being.

The seems to be only one allowable division in New Zealand politics - that between machine-produced clones on the one hand and nutball narcissistic tycoons on the other. To a consensual media this probably sounds like the writings of some quixotic loony.

But, in my view, our election bears more resemblance to a plebiscite in some banana republic than to anything recognisable as a "free and fair" democratic contest.

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