Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

Newspaper Columns


Strategic Voting

28/10/2008

With a few days to go until the election, and the race tightening, it's time to look at the potential coalition partners for the two main camps contending for office. Our mad MMP system is forcing a lot of people to contemplate strategic voting. Voters not only get two votes at the ballot box; it is possible, by strategic voting, for individuals in some electorates to assist with the election of extra MPs as well. For instance, if Jim Anderton holds Wigram, Labour gets the same number of MPs its percentage entitles it to, but the heady delights of Jim's company in Parliament as well, because he stands for a separate party. If Rodney Hide wins Epsom, National will receive the number of seats its percentage entitles it to, plus Hide, plus Heather Roy, plus Sir Roger Douglas and possibly John Boscawen as well. A vote for Hide in Epsom can mean the 59 seats due to National in the latest Colmar Brunton poll, along with another 3 or 4 from Act. The centre right gets Peter Dunne's vote also, so long as the people of Ohariu realize that voting for Dunne for the electorate seat results in a further "top-up" for National. Such an overall outcome, relying as it does on the support of parties that are known quantities, would ensure stable, predictable government with new faces around the cabinet table, and a few people with long experience in economic crisis management.

Labour, on the other hand, would have a much more difficult time putting together a useful team. It is correct that Helen Clark could find herself cobbling together a five party outfit with several people she has had the luxury of shunning in the past. Remember how she managed to keep the Greens at bay after the 2002 election? And how she out-manoeuvred them, as well as the Maori Party in 2005? But her coalitions have become steadily more odd since 2002. This time she'd have to get into bed with both the Greens and the Maori Party, as well as Jim Anderton. And we'd also have to put up with more of Winston Peters' secret trusts, election over-expenditure, donations of taxpayers' money to charities of his choice, and his dealings with the racing and fishing industries that brought him into such disrepute over the last three years. We'd have a government that is at the beck and call of the Greens, who have no policies to deal with the current world economic crisis except to make it worse; who gave us the futile anti-smacking legislation; and whose policies on Maori issues are if anything more extreme than those of the Maori Party. Green influence, remember, gave us the scheme to reduce the water pressure in our showers. Several Green politicians in Auckland would like to abolish electric towel rails as well. With a Clark-led government you'd not only have her in your bathroom, but Russell Norman and Jeanette Fitzsimons as well. What a cuddly little scene! And maybe Sue Bradford as Minister of Social Welfare too? The five-party coalition document would have to allow for a continuation of New Zealand First's shenanigans, and a raft of nonsensical, other-worldly nostrums from the Greens.

But wait. There's more. If we aren't careful then John Key and Helen Clark could be at the beck and call of the Maori Party. They, at least, show signs of wanting to examine the huge contribution that too-easily-available welfare makes to the continuation of poverty, domestic violence and crime in this country. But the Maori Party comes to any discussions on forming a government with some very heavy baggage. Tariana Turia once called the colonization of New Zealand "a holocaust" for Maori, an assertion that was so absurd as to call into question her judgment. The Maori Party has constitutional demands that would freeze your blood. Not only do they want to "entrench" the continuation of the Maori seats after all the Treaty grievances have been settled with "full and final" legislation, but Tariana wants "to educate" new immigrants about the racially superior status she believes Maori deserve. Telling them all about the "holocaust", no doubt. And the Maori Party wants an Upper House within our constitutional structure with equal representation for Maori and non-Maori in it. That body, under Maori Party policy, would have the power to veto legislation passed by our House of Representatives. Throughout its modern history this country has given people of every race a vote of equal worth. Do we want to change all this because of a bee in Tariana's bonnet? The rest of the world is trying to eliminate the last remnants of racial privilege at the same time as the Maori Party wants more of it.

So the choices on 8 November are rather stark. On the one hand we can have a more economically literate government than the present one, a ministry containing both experienced people and new faces, which can get to grips with the country's slow growth, rising inflation and galloping indebtedness. On the other hand we can have a five-party monster made up mostly of extremists with so many weird agendas that you can kiss goodbye to New Zealand's reputation as a reliable place for investment. Should this emergency present itself after 8 November it's a fair guess that there will be an immediate flight of capital off shore, and that the New Zealand dollar would drop even faster than it has done of late. Political correctness will become the order of the day as a collection of mini-Stalinists set about imposing their oppressive agendas, inside your bedrooms, bathrooms and garages. Walking and cycling will become a new religion. Helen Clark was right when she kept the Greens at bay in 2002 and 2005. This time she'd have no option but to become their doormat.

New Zealand's future hangs by a thread. Voters must think strategically. Like him as many do, Richard Worth is less use as MP for Epsom if we are to change the government than Rodney Hide who can bring several more people into the centre right's tent. Ohariu's voters must do the same for Peter Dunne. But watch out! Labour is capable of the same tricks. Helen Clark has no bottom line beneath which she won't stoop. There are rumours that several of Labour's ex-Beehive toadies who are standing for electorate seats like Epsom, Tauranga and Rimutaka will suddenly announce they are pulling out of their electorate fights at the last minute, urging Labour voters to support either National in Epsom and Ohariu, or New Zealand First in Tauranga and/or Rimutaka in the hope that such strategies could strengthen Labour's bargaining power after 8 November.

We are stuck with a voting system that requires careful strategizing and encourages corruption. Let's get rid of it once we have managed to fire this awful government, which has gradually degenerated into the worst in half a century.