Our electoral system is to be subjected to a sweeping review – but the Maori seats are in no danger of being brushed away

The Parliamentary seats put aside especially for Maori – they provided Labour with five MPs at the 2020 general election – are among the issues that are off limits during something described by RNZ as “a sweeping review of the country’s electoral laws”.

It will include voting age, the three-year term, party funding and the “coat-tailing” rule.

But the government has been careful to ensure the seven Maori electorates (although it  lost two of them to the Maori Party at the last general election) aren’t swept away during this clean-up of our electoral system.

As Faafoi explained without the hint of a blush, the review will not consider changes to Māori seats, local elections, changing from the MMP system, or fundamental constitutional changes such as becoming a republic or having an upper house.

Moreover, he said some rule changes – he described these as “targeted” ones, such as changes to the Maori roll and the transparency of political donations – would be introduced ahead of the 2023 election.

So what’s he up to?

According to his press statement, the Government is taking two approaches

  • an Independent Review of New Zealand’s electoral law; and
  • “targeted changes to support the delivery of and participation in the 2023 General Election”.

We can’t imagine Faafoi contemplating “targeted changes” if they might seriously imperil his party’s support.

But what about changes that might enhance that support?

As he explained things:

Targeted changes

“Some rules could be improved before the General Election in 2023. For example, we’re looking at improving the transparency of political donations to make it easier to see where the money is coming from.

“Another focus is looking at when people can move between the Māori Electoral Roll and the General Roll. At the moment Māori voters won’t be able move rolls before the 2023 General Election.”

Move between rolls?

Can anyone do that?

Don’t be silly, dear reader.  All citizens are equal (tnanks to the Treaty of Waitangi) but some are more equal than others (thanks to the way certain politicians interpret the Treaty of Waitangi).

This work on our electoral system results from a commitment signalled in Labour’s 2020 Manifesto “to protect the integrity of New Zealand elections”, Faafoi said.

It is also part of the Cooperation Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa.

Oh – and Faafoi is all go with this targeted stuff:

“We are looking to make progress on the work before the end of the year.”

   The Independent Review of our electoral laws will look at elections rules such as:

  • voting age and overseas voting
  • funding of political parties
  • the length of the parliamentary term
  • the Electoral Commission’s recommendations on MMP:
    • changes to the party vote threshold
    • one seat electorate rule
    • ratio of electorate seats to list seats
    • the overhang rule

The Independent Review will not look at:

  • online voting
  • a return to First Past the Post or alternatives to New Zealand’s MMP system
  • the future of Māori electorate seats
  • local electoral law
  • fundamental constitutional change; such as becoming a republic or having an upper House

Faafoi said this is a chance to make important changes in how elections are run “for this generation and the next” so that:

  • voters can continue to participate in elections easily
  • the Electoral Commission can continue to run elections effectively
  • political parties and others have clear rules to follow and are held to account if those rules are broken.

His next step is to put together a review panel, to report back by late 2023 with recommendations for change.

He said he would be consulting with all parliamentary party leaders and Parliament’s Justice Committee on the Terms of Reference for the review before they are finalised.

He is also writing to these and other groups, such as Māori organisations, youth organisations, universities and the New Zealand Law Society to seek nominations for potential panel members.

He won’t find the Nats are too chuffed about this announcement.

National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Chris Penk calls it a “a strange move, because a review of electoral law is already taking place through the Justice Select Committee, which is undertaking its inquiry into the 2020 general election.

“National sincerely hopes that Mr Faafoi is not seeking to undermine that cross-party process by establishing a separate process in competition to the one being undertaken by the Justice Select Committee.

 “Our strong view is that New Zealand’s electoral system belongs to all New Zealanders, not any single political party with a Parliamentary majority. 

 “This is why a cross-party Select Committee is already hearing public submissions and considering changes. It’s also why the Electoral Act requires a referendum or 75 per cent support in Parliament before key changes can be made.

 “It’s also important that any electoral law review process be genuinely non-partisan.

 “It is not good enough for Mr Faafoi to promise mere ‘cross-party engagement and participation’.

Penk said New Zealanders would know that when Labour calls for consultation there’s every chance it will become a box-ticking exercise.

“If Mr Faafoi is serious about looking at electoral law reform he should not be prescribing what options are off the table before Kiwis have had a chance to have their say. It is unclear why Labour will not allow discussion of areas such as local electoral law and the future of the Māori seats within this review.”

Penk noted that Faafoi is writing to Māori organisations, youth groups, universities and the Law Society to seek nominations for the review panel.

He rejoined:

Our view is that all Kiwis should be provided an equal opportunity to contribute to the review of the electoral system, as it belongs to them all.”

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2 thoughts on “Our electoral system is to be subjected to a sweeping review – but the Maori seats are in no danger of being brushed away

  1. If the threshold drops to 4%, the Christians will stop squabbling amongst themselves over who is truly hearing the word of God for just long enough to form a party that gets just over 4%.

    Like

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