NZ voters feel put upon once too often: David Barber in Wellington finds people thoroughly confused about an unusual referendum on electoral reform - World - News - The Independent

NZ voters feel put upon once too often: David Barber in Wellington finds people thoroughly confused about an unusual referendum on electoral reform

NEW ZEALANDERS today get what has been billed as a 'once in a lifetime' chance to choose how to elect their members of parliament. For most of them - racked with head-aching confusion after a 10-week lead-up to a rare referendum on electoral reform - that is once too many, but they will have to do it again next year.

Opinion polls show they have made up their minds to ditch the Westminster system of electing MPs, used since the first election 140 years ago, but they are totally confused about what to put in its place.

It is hardly surprising. They have two votes in today's referendum. First, to decide whether to retain the existing 'first past the post' system or change it. Second, to choose one of four alternative systems. The second vote will count only if the majority favours change. If it does, they will vote again next year, with 'first past the post' again on trial, up against the winner of the other four options.

A government-funded 'education campaign' has done little to educate voters. They have been bemused by television commercials, which have rivalled Monty Python in sillines, and have been stupefied by a mass of acronyms for alternative voting systems. According to opinion polls, people are disenchanted with politicians and sick of broken government promises. Two out of three want change - any change. A similar majority, however, confess they are too bemused to decide on an alternative.

Pressure for reform and the introduction of some form of proportional representation (PR) has been building for years. The present system has not delivered a genuine majority government, where most voters supported the winning party, since 1951. Minority parties have won up to 20 per cent of the vote but gained only a couple of seats.

Cynics accuse the government - which saw votes in pledging a referendum in its 1990 election campaign, but will almost certainly regret it tonight - of deliberately creating confusion to try to maintain the status quo. Two-thirds of MPs oppose a change, and leaders of the main Labour and National parties, who foresee PR ending the dominance they have enjoyed since 1935, have argued fiercely against it.

Favoured to win is the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system used in Germany, which proponents say is most likely to produce coalition governments to check the Labour-National monopoly. This would give electors two votes, one for a local MP and the other for a national party list of candidates, ensuring representation for minority parties.

The future of the four exclusively Maori seats and the size of the new parliament remain undecided. The Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, says PR would mean more MPs, which the country does not want. He also favours adding an upper house to parliament. That would require even more politicians, who rank below used-car salesmen in New Zealanders' esteem.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'I felt like that was the lowest I’d ever felt'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
News
A plane flies close to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano
newsAnd yes, it's quite something
Sport
Tito Vilanova passed away aged just 45
footballThe club's former manager died in April, less than a year after he stood down
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch
artAnd it's even for a good cause
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Life and Style
techCriminals are targeting an e-reader security flaw
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
newsBut just how much does a 122-carat coloured diamond go for these days?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

PE Teacher (Female)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Teacher of Girls PE for Wiltshire scho...

Retail Business Analyst - Retail-J

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week