Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Genie is out of the bottle - but will it grant the people's wishes?

David Shearer writes over at Red Alert that the "Genie" is out of the bottle in the middle east. He points to a lethal cocktail of youth, unemployment, global connectivity and above all fearlessness on the protesters' part. The question now is what Genie has been released - the Genie of democracy and economic and political freedom? This was the case in Eastern Europe and most of the former Soviet Union following the revolutions of the late 80s and early 90s. Or is it the Genie of Islamic extremism, and deeper authoritarianism as was the case in Afghanistan in the 90s, Iran in the late 70s and Libya in the late 60s? Only time will tell.

Sadly the latter examples reflect political realities in the middle east - particularly when it comes to Iran's revolution. The Iranians threw off their repressive western-backed monarchy only to have the revolution hijacked by Islamists. Iran is now a repressive theocratic state. Libya is another kettle of fish; the it appears to be a revolution in parallel to Romania, with Gaddafi's exit strategy appearing to mirror Ceau┼čescu.

It's my hope that Egypt will lead the middle east peacefully towards liberal democracy. However, with the military in charge that's not likely - perhaps the best we can hope for is a Turkish-style compromise, where the military is the bastion of defending the secular state, keeping (largely) the sectarian parties in check.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The polls - February

Well, I'm very surprised. After TV3's poll earlier this week showing 60% of New Zealanders were opposed to "privatisation" versus 30% in favour, you would think the government was up for a big hit in the polls. Apparently not - TV3's poll shows National still with a comfortable lead. I really expected John Key to take a hit on privatisation - but the One News poll shows a marginal 4% drop.

This will change though. November 26 is 9 months away, and a lot can happen in 9 months. The biggest threat to John Key's position comes from NZ First, who he has ruled out including in government. You'd expect that anti-privatisation National voters would flock to NZ First, but that doesn't seem to be the case; just 3.6% of respondents in One News' poll said they would vote for them.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

40% referendum threshold

In the UK, Conservative peers have pushed the government to accept a 40% turn-out threshold for the forthcoming referendum on electoral reform in the UK. This isn't a bad idea, as constitutional change requires legitimacy. Even with just a 40% turn out, a majority equates to 20% of the total population - meaning 20% is determining constitutional change for 100% of the population. That's hardly democratic.

Family First's misleading "survey"

I don't usually agree with Brian Edwards, but he's on the mark with this one. Of the misleading questions in this survey, the one that got me was:
16.   (Stem Cell Research) New Zealand should promote adult stem cell research, and oppose embryonic stem cell research.
I responded "neutral" because stem cell research can't really be divided between "adult" and "embryonic", at least if you want useful results from it. On the other hand, I didn't want to say I strongly disagree with the proposition, because that looks like I disagree with any stem cell research, adult or embryonic. Saying I agree with the proposition would mean cutting off embryonic stem cell research and forcing scientists (in New Zealand, I assume) to focus on "adult" stem cell research.


Sorry for the hiatus, I've been off getting myself married. Still on leave this week seeing off family who came over for the wedding.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Good onya Prime Minister - now for fixed election dates

Another coalition with National?
Prime Minister John Key announced today that the general election will be held on Saturday 26 November 2011. It's great to see the Prime Minister announcing the date in February. By doing so he has prevented speculation about the election date (which we had to put up with three times under the last government) especially during the Rugby World Cup.

Equally pleasing is the decision to rule out any agreement with Winston Peters. Firstly because it means anyone voting New Zealand First will be voting for a coalition with Labour (I don't think NZ First voters actually want that - they want to "moderate" National). Secondly, because that has essentially kills New Zealand Firsts chances of getting back into parliament, save for an anchor seat.

That aside, if the Prime Minister really wants to prevent silly games with the election date, he should amend the Constitution Act to fix the date. Using the formula the Local Government Electoral Act 2001 implemented, the term of parliament (and therefore the election date) can be fixed on one day:
xx. Triennial general election
  • (1) The next triennial general election of members of parliament is on 26 November 2011. 
    (2) A general election of members of parliament must be held on the last Saturday in November in every third year after the general election referred to in subsection (1).
There. Done.