Andrew Geddis blogs on the issue of whether the Internet Party’s selection rules comply with the obligation in the Electoral Act for them to be democratic. He first points out that regardless of the rules, they can get registered:
There are two separate points here. The first is whether the Internet Party’s rules governing candidate selection are consistent with the Electoral Act’s requirement that parties use “democratic processes” when choosing who will stand under their banner. The second is whether that first question is at all relevant to the Party gettting registered. I’ll answer them in reverse order. …
One is that this obligation applies to registered parties. In other words, for it to kick in, the party already must be registered with the Commission. (In fact, a party doesn’t have to have any rules at allbefore being registered, as it is only required to provide the Commission with a copy of the party’s rules a month afterregistration.) And when it comes to the Commission carrying out the party registration process, it has no legal authority to look at a prospective party’s candidate selection rules (assuming these exist).
So the Internet Party can definitely get registered. So how can they be held to account in terms of if their rules are democratic enough:
The only real teeth and claws to this provision is that it gives a disgruntled prospective candidate (or ordinary party member) a ground on which to challenge candidate selection rules (and the way they are applied) in court. But, of course, that relies on there being some individual upset enough to get litigious against the party she or he purportedly supports and wants to represent.
So a member of the Internet Party could challenge the rules in court. Would they have any grounds for doing so?
There are a couple of initial points stacked against any such claim. The actual demands of the Electoral Act are pretty minimal: so long as there is “provision … made for participation in the selection of candidates … by … delegates who have (whether directly or indirectly) in turn been elected or otherwise selected by current financial members of the party” then s.71 is met. Additionally, the Internet Party has as its legal advisor one Graeme Edgeler, and I’d be very, very loathe to think that he’d allow the Party to run under a set of rules that aren’t consistent with the law.
Having said that, however, I think he might just have done so (or, at least, will do so if and when the Internet Party is registered with the Commission under its current set of rules).
That is significant. Geddis is saying that he thinks there is an arguable case the rules are not consistent with the law.
The Executive Committee (at its sole discretion) gets to both select who will be on the list and where they are placed on it. The membership gets to rank the Executive Committee’s initial choices, but with the Executive Committee then only required to “have regard” to the outcome of this process when making its final decision.
What, then, is this “Executive Committee”? Well, the relevant point to note for this election is that it consists only of the people who are setting up the Internet Party without any membership input at all.
Also the Executive Committee can not be changed by the membership, as only nominations made by a current member of the Executive Committee are valid. The party founders basically can stay there as long as they want, by refusing to nominate anyone else for their Executive Committee.
So, when it comes time to choose the candidates for 2014, the Internet Party’s Executive Committee will be made up of the self-appointed “founders” of the Party … irrespective of the party membership’s views on their suitability or otherwise. Which means that any initial screening of prospective candidates for the Party’s 2014 list (consistent with rule 12.1), as well as the final decision on the list’s makeup and rank order, will be taken by individuals who have not been (either directly or indirectly) “elected or otherwise selected by current financial members of the party”.
Not very democratic is it.
All of which means that I rather think that DPF might be right when he questions whether the Internet Party’s rules will meet the requirement of s.71 of the Electoral Act (once it is registered with the Electoral Commission) – at least, with respect to how those rules apply for the 2014 election.
It will be very interesting to see who gets appointed to the all powerful Executive Committee.