31 March 2015

Northland's blind date

While 54% of Northland voters knew they were voting for Winston Peters last Saturday, what they didn’t know was who else, if anyone, they were bringing into parliament. Before the by-election, Mr Peters made no clear statement as to whether or not he would vacate his list seat and, if so, who on his party’s list would replace him.
If he did not resign as a list member after his victory, parliament’s numbers would drop from 121 to 120. That would have saved the taxpayer one parliamentary salary. It’s now apparent, from public statements, that Peters does intend to vacate his list seat, probably after he is sworn in as member for Northland. This means that NZ First’s numbers in the House will rise from 11 to 12. But we have yet to learn who on their party list will take up the vacancy.
The next on the party’s official list is Ria Bond of Invercargill. But she does not automatically become the next list MP. That depends on whether she is still eligible and willing to serve in parliament. So, the new list MP has to be determined, with no mandate from voters, by negotiation between the NZ First board and those waiting in line on the party’s list.
Whoever gets into parliament will not have got there by means of an election, but only as a secondary consequence of a by-election. And Northlanders who voted for Mr Peters were not able to tell what those consequences would be at the time they voted.
The double irony is that Winston Peters would have remained as an MP and leader of NZ First regardless of whether he won or lost the Northland by-election. And, in voting for him as their MP, Northlanders did not know (and perhaps did not care) who the new MP would be. Had they elected Mr Osborne, on the other hand, matters would have been much simpler.


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