The landscape of politics
The landscape of
By Marc Alexander
What political future does the Election of 2005 promise us?
One thing for sure, Labour scored a pyrrhic victory. Although the special votes have yet to be counted they are unlikely to change the flavour of Parliament. Whatever the coalition/supply and confidence/or abstention arrangements, a difficult time lies ahead for Labour. It is hard enough to realize a legislative agenda in a party of 50 with the inevitable infighting from differing factions, but it will be a mammoth undertaking to wriggle through the Progressives, Greens, United Future, Maori Party, and Winston. Even if he keeps to his word on matters of supply and confidence (or abstains), Winston will be keeping one eye on the polls to determine when to take advantage of electoral uncertainty.
The Greens will also want concessions for whatever accommodation they can negotiate. They are unlikely to ask for too much because, more than anything, they fear a potential National government. This will accentuate the Greens' irrelevance and make it doubly hard for them to gain column inches in the local rag. I am continually amazed that so many people support the Greens, utterly oblivious to their social agenda. It is likely their support is based solely on their environmental issues. It's a shame few bother to dig much deeper into all their other stuff, which is what really scares people
But, truth be told, I did not meet one MP in the last three years who didn't care about our great outdoors! What stuns me is that no other party has picked up on these issues in a way that challenges the Greens' strangle hold on them. There are many who care deeply about our planet but are not in favour of drug decriminalisation, higher taxes, and an astonishing arrogance that tells people what fat content their food can or can't have! Nevertheless, despite some of the pre-election vitriol and angst, the Greens will continue to poll beyond the threshold. Many voters do think it important to take a longer term view of our ecological well-being. It is that which captures Greens' support, not the other stuff.
ACT is on its deathbed. Let's face it.ACT presence in Parliament without the likes of Muriel Newman or Stephen Franks will be no more than the palest reflection of its interesting and vociferous past. Whether you agreed with them or not they added to the intellectual environment of Parliament. With only two seats and without these two stars, you'd have to ask, why bother?
The Maori party did extremely well to achieve four seats in Parliament. The big question is whether or not it will play a part in the next government, or opt to stay outside a formal arrangement. My pick is the latter for one important reason: formal support for Labour or National would imply tacit support - or at the very least disregard - for policies that brought the Maori party into existence, or on the other hand for those policies that threaten its advantaged place in Parliament.
Despite the Foreshore and Seabed legislation, Labour remains closer to the historical interests of Maori with whom they have more in common, than National. But Maori in the real world do have a choice. There are bucket loads of talented and successful Maori all around the world getting on with their lives without the assumed protections of the Treaty of Waitangi.
It hasn't held them back on the world stage and it needn't stop them here at home either. Despite a number of compromises, Labour appeals more to Maori because that party has cultivated the sanctity of the past. In a sense, Labour is holding on to the trainer wheels of Maori self determination. National on the other hand, looks forward to an undivided future where culture and heritage do not have a formalised special status.
It was widely reported a week ago that incoming Maori MP Pita Sharples said National would have to make "a very big bend" backwards on its policies for the Maori party to consider a deal. Presumably that means he expects National to give up on its pre-election promises to do away with a race-based allocation of parliamentary seats and the goal of equality for all under the law.
Why should National do that? One of the underlying principles of democracy is that race is not a criteria for any form of legal discrimination. It used to be called apartheid and New Zealanders, Maori and non-Maori, marched side by side in the streets against that scourge. Do we want in our country what we fought against elsewhere?
If we subscribe to a patronising paternalistic colonialism that sets one ethnicity as special and superior to others, we implicitly deny the truth that everyone is special and deserving of the rights and privileges that go with being Kiwi. I am not alone when I share the sentiment that I detest being called a pakeha - I am a New Zealander. Our boat, (or waka - if you must), is big enough for all of us!
No party should ever outstay its welcome. It is one of the best aspects of our democracy that we swing between two opposing visions, and now with MMP, augmented by other voices deserving to be heard as well.
It is politically healthy for us to pick and choose a government according to the demands of a particular historical moment. No one party has the capacity to reflect those demands continuously. Parties tire.they become jaded and arrogant.and eventually need some time of introspection and reinvention through the rigours of opposition. This is how our national destiny realigns and refreshes itself.charting a new course for a new generation. It is our strength.
So what will the shape of our political landscape be? My prediction: - given the tightness of the outcome - this was a good election for National to lose. Helen Clark may be a lot of things but she's no fool. She will do whatever it takes to cobble a third term and secure her place in Labour history (or should that be Labour herstory?).
After six months Helen will announce her intention to retire, leaving the various factions fighting for succession. She will sail off to an illustrious overseas posting with the United Nations, leaving behind a government unwittingly preparing the groundwork for its next role as the Opposition. I think we will have an election within eighteen months and, providing National doesn't do anything foolish, Don Brash will be crowned Prime Minister.
A new chapter in our political history will then begin.