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Dunne: Maori seats distort democracy

Media statement
For immediate release
Friday, 17 October 2008

Dunne: Maori seats distort democracy

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne says National’s bumbling efforts over the Maori seats issue and the equally strident responses by the Maori and Green parties demanding the entrenchment of Maori seats highlights just how badly those parties and media commentators are missing the point on this issue.

“The continued existence of the Maori seats has long since gone past the bumper sticker slogans of race-based representation by opponents to the seats, or preserving the special place of Maori in the electoral system by supporters of the seats.

“It is now an issue about totally distorting MMP and potentially perverting the will of the voters.

"If current polling is to be believed, the Maori party is on track to win six if not all seven Maori constituency seats.

"Yet they are only polling between 2 to 3 percent of the party vote, which would entitle them to 2 or at best 3 seats. If this plays out at the ballot box, Parliament would have to grow by either 4 or 5 seats from 120 to 125 seats.

"This overhang would result in either of the major parties having to cobble together a total of 63 rather than 61 seats to form a majority to govern.

"If current polling is to be believed further, National is supported by over 50% of voters. If that also plays out at the ballot box and they gain 51% of the popular vote, they will win either 61 or 62 seats.

"But with the potential overhang caused by the Maori seats, National would not be able to form a government.

“Such a situation would be totally undemocratic and unacceptable. The fundamental tenet of representative democracy would be totally perverted. Put simply, the will of the majority would be thwarted,” said Mr Dunne.

“The Maori party is demanding that the Maori seats should be entrenched and only go when Maori decide.

"In this election, they can put their money where their mouth is. The existence of separate Maori seats becomes irrelevant in electoral terms if the Maori party attracts enough party vote support that would entitle them to the 6 or 7 electorate seats they might win.

"In other words if they attract 5.5% party vote, they are entitled to 7 seats under the MMP system, regardless of whether they win electorate seats.

“I challenge Dr Sharples and Mrs Turia and their Green cheer leaders to explain how the continued existence of Maori seats can justify the corruption of our democratic process in the very real situation outlined above.

“When it comes to democratic representation, Maori are no more or less important that Asian, Pacific or European voices,” said Mr Dunne.


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