Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Maori in Parliament

A few quick thoughts on Maori representation..

It is interesting that of all the minor parties in Parliament, including the Maori Party, just one entered Parliament through an MMP election. All such parties when formed were/are headed by people from other political parties, most of whom had already been in parliament as MP's. One notable exception is Russell Norman of the Green Party, a party who, like NZ First, contains all list MP's. ie: had FPP been our electoral system, the Greens and NZ First would not be represented in Parliament - and of course the Maori Party would be the only party to have the same number of MPs as it currently does, given that it does not have list MP's..

Which brings me on to Maori representation. We have 21 Maori MP's in Parliament. Just three of these MP's were initially elected off a general seat, although all three are now list MPs, and one is about to retire. The only electorate MPs who are Maori are from the Maori Party. National says it wants to get rid of Maori seats by 2014. What that would essentially do is get rid of the Maori Party from Parliament, without elevating Labours vote, which I don't think is what the Royal Commission on the Electoral System had in mind, because any Maori Labour MPs would not represent Maori interests as much as they could. It doesnt matter if Dover Samuels was a General list MP or a Labour electorate MP, he would not represent Maori interests to the extent of a Maori Party MP.

So the Maori Party relies on Maori seats to be in the House. If the Maori party was to go and the seats remain, they'll go to Labour. So you can see why National wants to get rid of the Maori seats -it actually minimises opposition to National.

But the Royal Commission on the Electoral System wanted Maori in Parliament, and actually suggested a 4 percent threshhold rather than the current 5 percent in the hope that perhaps a Maori party will be elected - but as we now know, the threshhold was irrelevant to when the Maori Party entered Parliament through a by-election and it was irrelevant at the last election. Ironically, The RCES saw MMP as the best means of providing effective Maori representation. Well, that depends on whether you mean Maori representation or Maori representation, and how much weight you give to list seats.

In any case not too Many Maori have been elected to a general seat - Winston Peters and Georgina Beyer are two of the most recent, and they're now both list MPs.

So the RCES did support the Maori seats - sort of - and it is wrong for National to say that they didn't. Perhaps the RCES did not forsee that any Maori Party didn't need to have the political threshhold lowered to enter Parliament.

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