Editorial: The lottery of politics

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014

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Isn't MMP a wonderful system? Without it, political journalists wouldn't have half the things to write about, especially so far out from an election.

For voters though, there is some cause for disquiet, even if the previous first past the post system wasn't ideal either, especially as more parties came on the scene and the two main parties became more like each other.

What's wrong this time, potentially anyway, is that alliances will be made solely in the interests of being the Government, and not necessarily in the best interests of the country.

A National/New Zealand First/United Future coalition is an example.

John Key doesn't much like Winston Peters, and Peter Dunne likes Mr Peters even less. Yet they could be allies who, to be effective, have to get on. A shared vision would be handy.

Likewise a Labour/New Zealand First coalition. What concessions will Mr Peters be able to wring from a party desperate to regain power? Deputy prime minister again?

The possibility is that there will much voters do not know when they vote late this year, and that is one failing of MMP.

Not only will we not know what carrots will be dangled, we won't even know which way Mr Peters will jump should he indeed find himself in the position of kingmaker.

Remember 1996, when the country waited seven weeks after the election before he surprisingly sided with Jim Bolger and National, emerging as deputy prime minister and treasurer. Many voters were infuriated.

This time it's more clear cut, and what is clear is that he'll go either way, depending on where he can get the best deal.

And that's his right, even if it's to the detriment of informed democracy.

In an ideal world parties should have to declare who they would partner and under what terms, but Mr Peters won't do that. Nothing like wringing out a few more concessions when you actually hold the balance of power rather than just hold the prospect of it.

All that said, if a week is a long time in politics 10 months is an eternity, so the landscape may change.

As it stands at the moment though, if there was an election next week many people would struggle to know which party to vote for because they wouldn't know exactly what that meant.

It has a lottery feel about it and that's not good.

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- The Timaru Herald

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