The changing demography of New Zealand warrants a closer look at its system of election and the fairness of representation. While the current system of Mixed Proportional Representation (MMP) puts minor parties at the ‘Kingmaker’ level, whether it is a true representation of all segments of the community remains an unanswered question.
On that score, New Zealand may well consider establishing Bicameral Legislature with the Lower House (House of Commons in the UK and Lok Sabha in India) filled by elected members and the Upper House (House of Lords and Rajya Sabha) which has representation of minorities. The Upper House would give true meaning to inclusive representation – comprising such people based on ethnicity, such as people from Fiji, Africa and the Middle East; people based on religion such as Muslims and Buddhists; and people representing ‘absolute minorities,’ such as East Europeans.
Supporters of the bicameral legislature system believe that it offers a more stable form of governance mainly in terms of membership and action. This balance of restraint and responsiveness is not achievable when using the unicameral legislature. In addition, double representation used in the bicameral legislature provides a more inclusive and just governance than the mere majority rule, further increasing stability of the country.
The two-house governance is more representative of the various interests in the current diverse society. In fact, using the bicameral legislature is less prone to control or influence by some powerful minorities. Dual representation enhances the likelihood that constituents and legislators will have better direct contact.
For instance, Rajya Sabha in India accounts for 12 members representing arts, science, literature and sports.
James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution and Fourth President of the United States of America, was concerned that accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
Towards a Republic
The main responsibility of the executive branch, he said, is “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed” (the heart of the Presidential oath of office), but that branch may not make law (the exclusive prerogative of the legislature).
We need to commence the debate on Bicameral Legislature in New Zealand. The starting pointing of course would be to determine if we need to go Republic.