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New Report Proposes Solutions To NZ’s ‘Democratic Defecit'

New Report Proposes Solutions To New Zealand’s ‘Democratic Deficit’

A new report released today by think tank Economic and Social Research Aotearoa examines the persistent problem of voter turnout decline and highlights four potential solutions. The report, authored by Jack Foster and Dylan Taylor, argues the decline in voter turnout is symptomatic of structural problems with the content and delivery of representative democracy in this county. Fundamental changes in economic distribution, political representation, and the role of government are needed for this trend to be reversed.


Foster said ‘Voter turnout has declined steadily since the 1984 General Election. The 2011 General Election saw only 69.6% of the estimated eligible population vote, an historic low since the introduction of universal suffrage. While there were mild increases in turnout in the 2014 and 2017 general elections, over a quarter of the eligible population still abstained in each.’


‘While non-voters are socio-demographically diverse, the ‘typical’ non-voter is more likely to be young, have a low income, and be from non-Pākehā ethnic groups, meaning that these groups are systematically under-represented in parliament.’


As turnout decline is linked to macroeconomic changes, the report’s authors call for structural changes to address this. The report proposes stricter limits on electoral spending to curb the influence of wealthy donors on political parties’ policy development, and a three-percent threshold for parties’ entry to parliament, on the basis that this would increase representation and reduce the problem of ‘wasted votes’.


Four solutions for stimulating voter turnout are offered. First, political parties should seek to genuinely reflect the interests of the working class, the precarious, and ethnic minorities. Second, unions must be strengthened so that they can play a mobilising role in electoral politics. Third, the government must actively intervene in the economy to reverse the economic inequality that contributes to voter turnout decline. Fourth, the authors suggest a far-reaching redistribution of wealth and of the mechanisms by which this wealth is produced.


‘Wealth inequality is antithetical to the concept of democracy,’ says Foster. ‘As long as some citizens have far more material wealth than others, they will continue to wield an outsized degree of political influence and delegitimise the foundation of representative electoral democracy: that one person has one vote and that all votes are equal in influence’.


The report can be found in full at https://www.esra.nz/voter-turnout-decline-possibilities-rejuvenation-politics/


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