Monday, September 16, 2013

Canadianizing New Zealand parliament

David Cunliffe, new NZ opposition leader
For the first time, a leading New Zealand political party has headed toward Canada in its leadership selection process.  Traditionally NZ followed the parliamentary process: voters elected MPs accountable to them, and MPs then caucused and chose a leader accountable to caucus.  Most parliamentary countries long resisted the Canadian system in which leaders are chosen by extra-parliamentary selectorates and are not accountable to the duly elected members.

NZ Labour (the main opposition) recently held a leadership race in which the selectorate was 40% caucus, 40% the general membership, and 30% the unions. The winner was opposed by most of the caucus he now leads. The campaign was attended by complaints that the candidates, facing the new costs of mass-selectorate campaigning, had been abusing their MPs travel privileges to get about the country to campaign.  (Clearly they have a ways to go to reach the full Canada, but its probably just a matter of time.)

The progression has a certain logic, as the role of MPs in New Zealand had already been diminished by the adoption of proportional-representation voting, so that many MPs have become essentially party representatives without an independent constituency.
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