Sunday, August 23, 2009

The first one to ignore

The leader of one of the far right NZ christianist groups behind the vanity referendum has threatened the prime minister with electoral retaliation if he doesn’t do their bidding. He’s the first one that Prime Minister John Key should ignore.

Bob McCoskrie, head of the far right christianist group “Family” First, said the result is the reason why Key must obey McCoskrie’s group. He declared, “John Key cannot ignore this result," because the National Party only received 45 percent of the vote in the 2008 general election. The clear implication is that if the prime minister doesn’t do as McCoskrie demands, he’ll be defeated in the next election.

Utter nonsense.

As I wrote yesterday, less than half of all enrolled New Zealand voters actually supported McCoskrie’s side in the campaign—not the 88% they claim. It would also be the height of ignorance or hubris to think that all those people would vote against National—or, for that matter, to assume that they were all National supporters in the first place.

It’s also worth remembering that no overtly christianist party has ever received 5% of the popular vote, the threshold to get into Parliament unless they win an electorate seat (which they've also never done):

1996 Election (This was New Zealand’s first election under MMP): The Christian Coalition, a joint effort by the Christian Democrats and Christian Heritage, received 4.33%. This remains the highest percentage a christianist party has ever achieved.

1999 Election: Christian Heritage received 2.38% and Christians Against Abortion received only 0.01%.

2002 Election: Christian Heritage Party received only 1.36%.

2005 Election: Christian Heritage Party received only 0.12% (largely because its leader in previous elections had been convicted of molesting a little girl). That year, all rightwing christianist parties combined won only 0.75%

2008 Election: Larry Baldock (one of the petition pushers) led his rightwing christianist party, Kiwi Party, and received only 0.54% of the party vote.

What election results show is that despite the bluff and bluster of McCoskrie and his cronies, rightwing christianists’ influence is declining. The results of the referendum don’t change that picture in the least, in part because it’s absurd to assume that every “no” voter in the referendum would support McCoskrie and his cronies or any party they supported.

As if all that weren’t enough, the next general election is more than two years away. Odds—and history—suggest that maintaining public interest in this for that long is nearly impossible.

Add it all up, and Prime Minister John Key can, in fact, “ignore this result”. So far, Key said, "What I am wanting to ensure is that parents have a level of comfort that the police and Child Youth and Family follow the intent of parliament, and that they can feel comfortable that in bringing up their children they are not going to be dragged before the courts for a minor or inconsequential smack."

The referendum results indicate that the prime minister’s stated approach is the correct one. They also show that, when combined with all the election results under MMP, the one thing that the Prime Minister does not need to do is pay any attention to the extremist groups who forced the referendum on New Zealand taxpayers.

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