Sir Gil Simpson writes in The Press:
When we see evidence of “no one fit to govern” we need to find a democratic way of telling our politicians exactly that. Low voter turn out is viewed (secretly) by some politicians as a good indicator that they will be re-elected – not as voters dissatisfied with the choice.
Starting with local body elections we could make a change that would enable voters to demand better performance from our politicians.
In Canterbury we have some experience of this by commissioners being appointed to ECan. At the time there was a protest campaign to describe this as the government taking away our democracy.
Why should the government do this? Perhaps we should have the democratic right to ask the government to appoint commissioners?
I suggest that on every local body ballot paper an additional candidate is created which says “Appoint commissioners”. The local citizens would be democratically choosing, if in sufficient numbers, an action for the government to take.
If “appoint commissioners” were added to the next ballot for Ecan then the voters view would be made clear.
If, say, 50 per cent voted for this then the government could appoint half of Ecan’s council members from the best-polling candidates and half from suitable technocrats.
If we look forward to the Christchurch City Council elections in 2016 and “appoint commissioners” was going to be a choice on the ballot paper.
Aware of this, the elected members of our 2013 council would be suitably encouraged to act responsibly so that the voters will retain or regain confidence in them.
It’s not a bad idea. It is a type of no confidence option. Such an option could be very popular in Wellington City as well as Christchurch City.
Even if a threshold of appointing commissioners is not reached but if, say, more than 15 per cent of those who voted said appoint commissioners, then it would be a very foolhardy politician who ignored the clear message of dissatisfaction from the voters. When commissioners are appointed no seat is “safe”.
Worth looking at this option for next year’s review of local electoral laws.