Democracy

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Principle: DEMOCRACY is enhanced when our political representatives include private citizens in decisions that affect them and the communities within which they live. We support initiatives that empower citizens’ democracy.

We have no confidence in the political elite and establishment politics. The best governments are those that facilitate the democratic process. We believe this can be best achieved when power is returned to citizens through binding referenda.

There should be three types of binding referenda in New Zealand:

  1. Mandatory referenda
  2. Popular referenda
  3. Veto referenda

1. Mandatory referenda should be held whenever the government proposes changes of a constitutional nature.

The Citizens Initiated Referenda Act will need to be amended to provide for the popular and veto referenda.

2. Popular referenda are legislative initiatives proposed by the people and referenced to the “turn-out” vote (the number of voters at the previous election) as a mechanism to prevent ‘capture’ by vested interests:

the support of 10 percent of the ‘turn-out’ vote would be required over a 12 month period to trigger a referendum, and 
– a threshold level of 50 percent of the ‘turn-out’ vote in support would be required for the initiative to pass

For example, 2,257,336 votes were cast in the 2011 general election (the turn-out vote). To initiate a referendum 10% of that total (225,733) would be needed to successfully petition Parliament, and 50% (1,128,668) would need to vote in support of the referendum question for it to be passed. Parliament would be required to put the question into law within one year.

In the case of the most recent referenda question (promoted by the Greens, Labour, Grey Power, Trade Unions and the Student Union), “Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand?” the total number of valid votes was 1,367,340. Of these 920,188 voted “No”. This represents 40.7% of the “turn-out” vote, and therefore would have failed to make the success threshold.

3. Veto referenda are a democratic safeguard that would enable the public to overturn (veto) legislation passed by Parliament. This system is used in Switzerland and in many US states:

the support of 5 percent of the ‘turn-out’ vote would be required over a 3 month period to trigger a referendum, and 
– a threshold level of 50 percent of the ‘turn-out’ vote in support would be required for the initiative to pass

Because the launching of a veto referendum will prevent a new law from being enacted, haste is required. That’s why the support for a successful petition is set at 5 percent of the “turn-out” vote (as defined above), with a 3 month time limit. For example, if the voter turnout in the previous election was 2,257,336 votes, then 112,867 signatures would be required within 3 months of the date the referendum petition opposing the law was approved.

Referenda would replace conscience votes in Parliament.

At a local government level, popular and veto referenda would apply, but with 20% and 10% trigger levels respectively.

The Model

Binding referenda works. “In Switzerland, the people have extensive decision-making power. As in New Zealand, Swiss nationals elect the members of parliament and just as in New Zealand, everyone is entitled to address written requests, suggestions and complaints to the authorities. But in Switzerland, citizens get more of a say.” – Dr Marion Weichelt (to read Dr Weichelt’s full article click here).

For policies on this topic goto the policies page HERE.