PNG and the Tyranny of Unicameral Majoritarianism

(Mike Pepperday has an edited version of the very interesting essay below in the AFR today. But Troppodillians expect only the unexpurgated, and so, in keeping with Troppo’s tag line “What do we want – the unexpurgated. When do we want it – Now!” here it is. . Nicholas.)

Australia and New Zealand have propped up Pacific countries since their independence. They can go on propping up the micro-states indefinitely but PNG, with its six million people and its resource wealth, is becoming independent of our handouts. Private security companies are moving in and guns are flooding in. A showdown looms. The prospect is for civil strife and take over by the colonels. They will bring order, Torrens title, ethnic cleansing, and refugee camps on Cape York.

The news stories of slush funds and “big man” chicanery indicate a terrible misapprehension. The reason that the government of PNG has deteriorated since independence is not the locals’ innate cultural defects. This patronising, outsider-judgement will have serious consequences. The problem is not the culture. Given a chance, Melanesian ambitiousness would sustain a flourishing polity. PNG’s problem is its unworkable political structure.

In 1975 the Whitlam government set up PNG with a single chamber of parliament (a “unicameral” system) to which MPs were elected from single-member electorates (so-called “majoritarian” representation). This design—a single chamber composed of electorates each represented by a single member—has never worked for any country.

Where did Australian officials get the idea? In 1975 the only Australian instance was Queensland. World-wide, there were only two democratic examples. One was New Zealand, at that time unicameral for 25 years and regretting it even more than they had regretted the bicameral parliament they had had for a century. The other was Northern Ireland, at that time in flames. In short, they had no model; they experimented. Other majoritarian, unicameral countries were Mauritius, then under a state of emergency, and some catastrophic African states.

PNG joins these as a failed state. The usual “explanation”—dysfunctional culture—misses the point that the purpose of a political system is to deal with the culture. That is what it is there for: if men were angels no government would be necessary. PNG culture is beside the point. PNG is afflicted with a political structure that cannot cope with any culture.

Empirically, a majoritarian electoral system will work provided there is a second chamber of parliament. There are many democratic countries which have only one chamber but they all have multi-member electoral districts—so-called “proportional representation” or PR. The evidence for what makes viable government is unequivocal:

– if the MPs are elected in single-member districts, parliament must be bicameral;

– if the parliament is unicameral, elections must be multi-member PR.

There are good technical reasons for this. In 1965 Sir Arthur Lewis set them out in his Politics in West Africa. No one took any notice—with horrific consequences. The relevant point here is that a majoritarian house requires a curb. Without it, it becomes corrupt: cronies are rewarded, top civil servants take bribes, ordinary lives are ruined. Though the upper houses of Britain and Canada are grossly undemocratic (as was New Zealand’s) and almost powerless, they suffice to curb the majoritarian lower houses from turning into “elected dictatorships”—the term of former NZ prime minister Geoffrey Palmer.

Having a rickety upper house just to curb the lurching of a majoritarian lower house is not optimal and Australia has changed nearly all its upper houses to PR: the Senate 1949, SA 1973, NSW 1978, WA 1987, Vic 2003; unicameral ACT switched to PR in 1988. PNG, meanwhile, has been left to stew. PR better aligns the politicians’ individual interests with the public interest so PR houses tend to be proper debating chambers. The TV news shows us the slanging match from the majoritarian lower house while the legislating is done in the PR upper house.

It is no secret that the unicameral majoritarian structure is not viable. PR is the Continental design and quite un-Anglo yet Westminster knew it had no alternative in Northern Ireland. In the bitterness generated by fifty years of majoritarian polarization, the first two PR attempts failed. The third try seems to have stuck and Northern Ireland has dropped out of the news. It used to be thought that the Irish problem concerned religious culture but we now see that this was incorrect. The task of government is to cope with the culture and the problem in Northern Ireland was—evidently—the government design. Europe is at least as beset with religious differences as Ireland but all its unicameral countries are PR.

The recent devolutions of Wales and Scotland are also unicameral PR, as is Greater London. New Zealand solved its problems (for which, notably, no one blamed the culture) not by re-introducing an upper house but by abandoning its majoritarian, Westminster heritage and adopting PR in 1994.

A viable system of political representation is not a guarantee of political rectitude. It is the foundation for it. No sound foundation can guarantee the superstructure will hold up but an unsound one guarantees the superstructure will eventually collapse. The electoral foundation supports parliament which shapes the executive which shapes the administration which shapes management.

PNG, the Solomons, and Vanuatu have been competing to become the first country in the world to make the unicameral, majoritarian design work. Today, all three are basket cases. When (if) RAMSI departs from the Solomon Islands it will leave behind an effective public administration which, like PNG’s, will immediately fall to bits. RAMSI claims to be laying foundations for long-term stability. The claim is fatuous for it is not touching the electoral system and within twenty years of its departure, the civil war will re-ignite and RAMSI II will be needed.

Among specialists in Pacific politics it is accepted truth that the problem in PNG is its culture. Thus there is nothing to be done. And since our system went through centuries of quarrelling to become democratic, what should we expect? What will be will be. Corrupt governments are interesting subjects for academic research and most academics don’t see the electoral system as their concern. The research imperative is to avoid offending influential contacts in those countries and to maintain Australian taxpayer funding of “governance” courses for Pacific Islands officials.

The AusAid position is comparable: the emphasis is on governance, not on government. This governance activity keeps patching cracks resting on unstable foundations. If we did it once and did it right, there would be a chance to turn the Arc of Instability into a Sea of Tranquility and a chance we could stop running their civil services for them. But no one wants to say straight out that all the earnest and expensive AusAid assistance is in vain. Replacing foundations disturbs residents and in the ranks of the decision-makers there is no incentive to make waves. Far easier to speak sadly of a “culture of violence” and point out how much worse everything would be without AusAid.

Many find it hard to accept that the finer points of an electoral system could be responsible for tribal violence. The culture, they insist, goes back millennia, and every Old Hand has a repertoire of amusing anecdotes about Papua New Guineans. Academic papers regularly bewail the unsuitability of its culture to modern politics and indeed the biggest obstacle to reform may be foreign experts’ unshakeable cultural preconceptions and the consequent conviction that reforming the electoral system is pointless. Thus does ethnocentricity lead to excuse-making and evasion of responsibility.

In 1975 the Australian government inflicted a curse upon the people of PNG. It took fifty years for Northern Ireland to boil over and now, after 37 years, PNG is simmering. It becomes more volatile as its politics become more shambolic and its resources become more valuable. The crisis will be very difficult to cope with. When Queensland goes bananas we can send 4 Corners there to sort it out. When the Northern Territory goes off the rails the Commonwealth parliament can jerk it into line. When Northern Ireland blew up, English troops could occupy the country. These last-ditch curbs are not available for PNG.

Failure to restructure PNG’s political system in peace means it will be attempted, with Australian help, in forty years or so, after the social and environmental devastation. If that succeeds, we will grant immunity to the elderly thugs, argue over the property of the refugees, and hold a Truth and Reconciliation inquiry for the survivors of the Bougainville genocide. Let there be no doubt as to who caused it all. Australia with its UN mandate and a duty of care, set it in train in 1975.

Some will assert that PNG must experience a shock to become a modern country, that this is normal. Give war a chance, they will say, to change the culture and bring the country into the industrial age. Presumably, ethnic cleansing does change culture but it is not certain that slaughter is necessary for progress. We have not yet given peace a chance.

Is it simplistic just to switch to PR? No. The task of the political system is to cope with the culture and PR usually does. Whatever the effects of culture, it does not help to trap a country in a political structure that has never been made to work. Moreover, PNG’s much-discussed, so-called “big man” culture actually consists of competitive leadership based on entrepreneurial popularity. It would form an excellent basis for democracy.

Electoral reform is a thankless undertaking. It has to overcome the opposition of those who are benefitting from the current system, who find every excuse to prove that now is not the right time, and who submit counter-proposals to obfuscate and stall. Advocating electoral reform does not advance careers and even when the need is accepted, it gets put off to tomorrow because today’s politics must be attended to. Moreover, because day-to-day political squabbling is colourful and dramatic, and election rules are dull and bureaucratic, the media and the public are not interested.

Despite these obstacles, all those Australian houses did manage to change. It was a creaking, groaning, whingeing business but they got there. If NZ could do it, why not PNG? But PNG is far past the stage where it can do it alone. It is up to Australia. We have a choice: do it now or do it in forty years’ time. Do it now or spend decades making pompous, impotent condemnations, decades cringing in the UN over what went wrong in our patch—and then spend more decades, excavating mass graves, trying to put a traumatised, impoverished country together again.

There may be a window to act now while Australia still has influence but the window is closing. A tsunami of cash is about to wash over PNG which will utterly corrupt the remnants of its democratic politics and allow its politicians to ignore Australia. Yet the leaders of PNG know their land has become a mafia state. They are patriots: if they were encouraged to adopt an honourable strategy to set their country on a positive path, they might do it. A tragedy might be prevented and with a viable electoral structure, PNG would have a chance to become peaceful and prosperous.

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23 Responses to PNG and the Tyranny of Unicameral Majoritarianism

  1. William Bowe says:

    You should make that heading into a bumper sticker.

  2. Tavurvur says:

    An excellent piece. And one that I’ve been waiting for a while to come out of Australia. After reading that dribble in the Australian Financial Review earlier this week, this goes a long way to put some of my fundamental concerns to bed regarding the understanding some Australians have of PNG.

    The recognition that one of the key issues with our political system, as identified in this piece is our unicameral system is on the right track. As we’ve seen over the past 10 months of what has been referred to as “PNG’s constitutional crisis”, indications are clear that we need to very carefully re-look at the basis of our political foundation.

    It has long been discussed and debated on PNG’s burgeoning blogosphere that PNG needs constitutional reform to effectively address the illness that so many symptoms have indicated exists in PNG – and for a long time now.

    PNG’s electoral system should also be reviewed. Currently Limited Preferential Voting (LPV) is being used in the 2012 National Election. Not only does this detract away from the need of the creation of strong political parties based on policy and not pork-barrel politics, it drives the divisions we often see fracture our domestic politics.

    A better option would be MMP, currently used by NZ. This would help drive the creation of strong political parties, curb the extraordinary number of contesting candidates we see every five years, and also provide the political stability required to drive PNG in the right direction.

    A combination of these two pieces of reform – both constitutional and electoral, will go a long long way to helping our political system finally find its feet and realize our true potential. Which, is not only present, but realistic too.

    One of my key concerns about PNG is that we spend so much putting out fires, we watch the world go by. This is no longer good enough.

    It is not past the stage where PNG can do this alone – we can do it, and to some degree, I think we need to do this alone off our own desire, with our own people and by our own thinking.

    PNG will always count Australia a friend, and no doubt some type of Australian input should be sought. But the drive to reform, the delivery of it, and its implementation should belong to PNG, and us alone.

  3. William Bowe says:

    Though you appear to have gone and changed it on me … (the URL for the post says “Free PNG from unicameral majoritarianism”).

  4. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Yes, sorry William, amazing you saw it in its first guise, which was there for about five minutes.

  5. Tel says:

    PR better aligns the politicians’ individual interests with the public interest so PR houses tend to be proper debating chambers.

    I agree, the principle is great (especially when you have easily accessible documentation of voting records, and debating positions), but the practice is undermined when voters just blindly put a [1] in the party box and don’t even glance at the individual politicians. What’s worse, very few parties actually document what vote you do cast when you select that party box. Can anyone post a link to where these votes are documented for any recent Australian elections?

    Also, in Australia at least, its only semi-PR. For example, there’s a lot of Green Party policies that I don’t much like (depriving people of property rights, etc) but I do think that Scott Ludlam has done a good job of being one of a tiny number of genuine anti-war and anti-censorship campaigners. Sadly, I’m not allowed to vote for Senator Ludlam, I can only vote for his party (not unless I move house anyway).

  6. Mike Pepperday says:

    “…the drive to reform, the delivery of it, and its implementation should belong to PNG, and us alone.”

    So, Tavurvur, what is YOUR model? The Whitlam govt didn’t have a model. Have you got one? Have you looked around the world and considered the countries that did it alone? I don’t see too many. The UK? That was centuries of brutal colonial occupation followed by a thousand years of dark ages, then a few more centuries of civil strife and finally settling on a bicameral system. Europe? Which blood-soaked country do you suggest? Northern Ireland couldn’t do it on its own.

    It’s not a plan; ditch it.

    Read up on how those Australian states got PR in their upper houses. Or how NZ got its PR. No way can you imitate them. Your models are in Africa. Grim.

    Let me say bluntly that this sentiment is one of the inhibitors of reform: everyone knows the unicameral majoritarian structure doesn’t work but in Australia, touchy-feely bureaucrats and milquetoast academics turn the other way and sanctimoniously agree with you: PNG’s reforms are PNG’s business.

    In 1975 you were cursed and for 37 years the country has been sinking. Until the witch lifts the curse you aren’t going to do anything except sink deeper.

    Here is a vignette of the situation in today’s Canberra Times.
    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/pngs-next-leader-must-marry-old-ways-with-new-20120706-21mc8.html

    PNG has no chance.

  7. Mike Pepperday says:

    Tel
    “the principle is great” Never mind the principle. It’s the practice that counts and PR works.

    For the most part, in this country the lower house is an irrelevant bunfight. The upper house amends legislation and the lower house obediently agrees with the amendments.

  8. Peter WARWICK says:

    Mike, cannot agree with you that “PNG has no chance”. I (Aussie) live and work in PNG and am married locally, and I see many people of good worth who want to give PNG a chance. Many of them are erudite like Tavurvur.
    But many leave, never to return, except to vist the rellies, and put some new sheets of iron on Mums house. They are impatient, want to see the world and make a mark somewhere. Many retreat to a shell where they can actualise their intelligence into something of benefit.
    But the thrust of Nicholas article is pretty right.
    We are observing the bumping/ crash of two thought systems together, and neither are working well.

  9. perplexed says:

    Interesting to contrast the current elections in PNG and Timor Este. Both unicameral and with very limited experience of democratic voting, but with very different results.
    Party affiliations seem to apply quite well in Timor but entirely absent in PNG. I can’t see literacy or paternalism as a distinguishing issue. Perhaps catholicism, or is it, as some post suggested that a ‘baptism’ of violence possibly yet to come in PNG but in the past with Timor the distinguishing feature. Are they just too different to compare?

  10. Mike Pepperday says:

    Peter Warwick:
    “I see many people of good worth who want to give PNG a chance.”

    Sorry that but has nothing to do with anything. There were plenty of well meaning people in all those African countries that flew apart. The point is the political structure won’t allow the country to have a chance. You can either have bicameral majoritarian – which sometimes works – or unicameral PR which generally does work.

    “But the thrust of Nicholas article is pretty right.” I wrote the article.

    “We are observing the bumping/ crash of two thought systems together, and neither are working well.”

    But I wrote in vain: you want to blame the culture!!! It seems we just can’t help it: anybody with a different religion or skin colour (or arbitrarily distributed coloured wristband according to one experiment) is different from me and that is the cause of the problem. It isn’t.

    Even if culture were the problem, it’s not going to change so there’s nothing you can do about it. So there’s no point in going on about it. The political system has to cope with the culture. You have a political design problem. It was inflicted in 1975. To fix it is simple: PR. Maybe NZ’s MMP as Tavurvur said.

    But you can’t fix it from within. Northern Ireland couldn’t fix it and you won’t either. You need outside help (pressure, financial incentives). And you will get it – either now (unlikely) or in a generation or two after the chaos.

  11. Mike Pepperday says:

    Perplexed –

    I don’t know. All sorts of things, including cultures, vary so what explodes in ten years in one country may take 50 in another. Timor Este is only about 10 years old. I have an idea there were firm parties in PNG in the early days. And you never know: Timor might become the world’s first successful unicameral majoritarian country. It is a pretty foolish experiment though. Wikipedia tells me the East Timor system is based on Portugal’s but Portugal has PR.

    A baptism of violence won’t solve anything. If the political structure is not viable, it’s not viable irrespective of the history of violence.

    It’s only a million people so maybe we can prop it up like the Pacific countries. I think we have been doing that.

  12. conrad says:

    “The political system has to cope with the culture. You have a political design problem.”

    I don’t think it’s a cultural problem with PNG, but there are certainly going to be cultures which mean you never advance as fast as they basically exclude some political systems. For example, all of these terribly sexist cultures that basically exclude women from doing anything are always going to be worse off than those that don’t even on just economic measures, since you’re basically losing half the brain power of your country, you’re losing many productive workers, and you end up with really high dependency ratios. So you need a cultural change that gets rid of this and allows political systems that are more inclusive.

  13. Pedro says:

    I agree with Conrad that culture will remain important, but checks and balances are good and important. Big Men will still be a problem.

    I disagree that the lower house does any of the legislating. I think the dynamic goes both ways because of the bully pulpit a strong PM enjoys and the DD threat.

  14. Pappinbarra Fox says:

    I postulated on a PNG website a few weeks ago that an electoral system based more on the culture of the “big man” system should be developed in PNG. Big Men in PNG arise by being able to organise one party to do favours or assist a third party. My suggestion was that each village should select its big man and big woman to go to an electoral college which would, in turn, from its members, select the two people (one man and one woman) to represent the electorate in the parliament. In this way the person selected would have obligations to all the members of the electoral college to ensure that all the electoral was looked after and represented adequately. If the members failed to represent their electoral fairly they could be recalled by the electoral college which could remedy the situation with a range of options including dismissing and electing another person. Now this could be open to problems so there would have to be checks and balances built in but it offers a solution more culturally aligned than the current majoritiarian system. Also it would act as a kind of bicameral system but from the grass roots up rather than having an upper house looking down. What are the thoughts of this group?

  15. Mike Pepperday says:

    Conrad –
    “I don’t think it’s a cultural problem with PNG, but…” !

    Your comment is a perfect illustration of the problem. The standard culture thesis is wrong. People go on and on about the culture. So show me the PR countries that oppress women.

    “So you need a cultural change…”

    You aren’t going to get it. The (alleged) oppressions of the culture will go on forever. To ask for cultural change to allow an inclusive political system is to put the cart before the horse. It is an excuse to do nothing.

    What you need to change is something that you can change: the political institutions. The culture reflects the power structure which includes something that is actually changeable: the political design.

    Then it might be that after a couple of generations of democratic parliament the culture might change. Maybe women would be less oppressed. Sound plausible? Or are there countries which, in taking up democracy, which have increased oppression of women?

    We must stop bleating about the culture; it blames the victim and is a pretext for inaction.

  16. Mike Pepperday says:

    Pedro, big men are not a problem; they are an asset—in an appropriate institutional structure. The problem is the political system inflicted on PNG in 1975. Fix the system and your “problem” will vanish, like the sectarian “problem” of Northern Ireland has vanished.

    Your second para is unclear but, whether you meant it or not, confirms that the lower house does no legislating. You mention the PM; there are also six premiers and that holds for the most part. It is a general property of having a majoritarian lower house and PR upper house: lower house sittings are superfluous.

    Where there is no upper house (Queensland) there is no curb. The house is the creature of the executive and will be easily corrupted.

  17. conrad says:

    “Or are there countries which, in taking up democracy, which have increased oppression of women?”

    In relatively recent times, Algeria would have been an example, although the military there stopped it. We also have a very good test case right now with all the Arab revolution countries, and I imagine we will be able to see the outcome rather quickly to answer this question.

  18. Mike Pepperday says:

    Pappinbarra fox. I don’t know why your comment is stuck back up the line there out of sequence. Nobody’s responded to your request—but they mightn’t have seen it. Here’s my opinion.

    Don’t experiment. Modern systems of representation have a couple of hundred years, and a couple of hundred examples, of trial and error. The people who worked them out were pretty clever and spent lifetimes at it so you should read up on them if you want to compete. It’s not needed: just adopt what experience shows works.

    You insist on regarding the so-called big man culture as if it were a problem. You are mistaken. It is anthropologically famous but actually isn’t all that special. It is just the tribal form of the individualism which is also a strong feature of, inter alia, American, Chinese and Indian cultures. Install PR and the “problem” will vanish like the Catholic-Protestant “problem” of Northern Ireland.

    You use “select” a bit casually. Big men are hardly “selected.” They select themselves. As I understand it, there is no such thing as a big woman.

    Everything—absolutely everything—depends upon the manner of “selection” of representatives.

    “…there would have to be checks and balances built in…” That’s glib. Adopt a system that experience shows has the checks and balances (buzzwords) already built in.

    ” If the members failed to represent their electoral fairly…” That’s naïve. There is only one way to determine fair representation: hold an election.

    There isn’t anything “up” about an upper house in the present context—it’s just the conventional term.

    I doubt any expert would recommend having two houses except for a federation and I shouldn’t think anyone would suggest PNG should be a federation. If that is right, it means PNG, like NZ and many other countries, should be unicameral PR. The task in PNG is conceptually dead simple: switch to PR. And it’s urgent.

    As a generalisation, under a single-member system, MPs represent geographical areas. Under a PR system MPs represent interests. The MP who wins the election in a single-member electoral district is the one and only rep for all the people who live in that district. The MP who wins a seat in a multi-member district represents those people in the district who are of like mind.

    Depending on the rules, to win a single-member seat you might need 50% plus one of the votes cast in that seat. Local popularity is the route to success and PNG knows all about that. On the other hand, to win a seat in an electorate with, say, 9 members you need 10% plus one of the votes cast. Since the electorate is nine times the physical size of the single-member electorate you have to appeal to widespread interests, not local ones. But since only 10% of the vote is needed, that can be a scattered minority interest. In single-member seats, minority interests can’t win.

    Campaigning over a very large electorate is different and generally requires candidates to cooperate with other candidates—that is, work out platforms and form parties. Where formerly the timber company had only to bribe a single member to move in and destroy the land, now it has to bribe nine members. It’s not hard to see how PR might dampen the excesses of local bigmanism but note that with unicameral majoritarianism, the ugly face of bigmanism will arise in any culture.

    PR was invented in the 1800s and has been in use in various forms since about the 1890s. It works. The problem is installing it. In Northern Ireland after the troubles broke out in the late 1960s, it took over 30 years of English occupation and three attempts to get the PR to stick—and that was after the decision for it was settled. In NZ it took about 10 years of argy-bargy (politicians squealing like stuck pigs) to get the PR in after the initial inquiry recommended it. Some of those pollies are still squealing but they’ll die off. In the NSW upper house arguably it took 50 years (1928-78) of thrashing about. Perhaps we know more now: WA took 17 years (1970-1987). But as I said above, they aren’t models for PNG. PNG’s models are in Africa.

    There is one essential requirement to convert to PR: the majority in the legislature has to vote for it. The actions that precede that vote—inquiries, referendums, campaigns, riots, threats, inducements—vary (with culture, no doubt) but the actions have just one goal: a majority vote in the legislature. This is obvious but what’s worth bearing in mind is that if the magic day arrives, if after the deals are done the numbers add up, most MPs who are voting aye will be hating it. As beneficiaries of the present majoritarian system, they will vote for it through gritted teeth, with tears in their eyes and grief in their hearts. They’ll vote for it because they have to, because the alternatives are even worse.

    You can see why I say PNG hasn’t a chance, and why I say PNG cannot do it itself. On the other hand, Australia (should reason prevail and it ever consider it) obviously can’t do it without local support. The bumper sticker “Free PNG from unicameral majoritarianism” sounds like a great idea.

    • Pappinbarra Fox says:

      I do not see the “BigMan” as the problem – that is the whole point of my comment – the big man cultural mores can be utilised to produce a melanesian outcome. Big woman – where my family are from it is a matrilinial society so there are plenty of big women – nothing happens unless approved by the landowner women. Maybe not so in the Highlands which is why you need to mandate equal numbers of men and women to be sent to the electoral college – not an experiment but putting into place what is already there in the melanesian culture. I am not sure you actually understood what I was suggesting as you seem blinkered by your PR “solution”. I think there are many possible solutions – but all require the eradication/avoidance of selfish corruption.

  19. LalaPippi says:

    Random thoughts on all of the former comments (because on a Sunday morning having just returned from a frustrating 10 days in POM (nothing to do with national politics), I don’t have the intellectual rigour to sustain more than little thought bubbles) :

    @William Bowe: I’m not sure a bumper sticker would carry that text. Even if you changed the “PNG and the Tyranny of…” preface back to “Free PNG from…” you’d probably need the side of a long-haul construction truck (or cargo plane) on it’s way to Komo to accommodate the TokPisin translation?!
    ;~)

    @Tavurvur: MMP has had its troubles in NZ too, but I agree that it’s a potential solution for PNGeans to consider. Given the need to strengthen the ability of the people, through the elected government of the day, to have a better say in and have more positive hope for workable policies and mechanisms of successful delivery of services (without the massive leakage of funds and effectiveness through illicict activities which is still currently most evident all around the country), the electoral, parliamentary and legislative systems need the introduction of more P-“proportionalism”, more M-“multi”, and over time stronger parties with policies and platforms directed towards national priorities (to supplement the regional and local needs). In addition to potentially reducing the enormous number of candidates (which in itself makes it difficult for voters), the introduction of a method for voting for both the party and the member may also help to curb the distortions of local government-employed security personnel bolstering their favourite local candidate (ie, usually sitting member – and certainly in those locations where the BigMan is really the BigMan). [Gotta reduce the gun-totin’ private security and run-totin’ politicians though!]
    Any such change won’t necessarily change the personal politics of the judiciary overly influencing their assessment of legal cases though… but then again, even the “Leaders of the Free World” (aka, the US) suffers from that problem!
    It won’t necessarily stop the walking ATM machine method of bribery though. The results might be better if the bribery was more “potential as a result of the election results” rather than cash before/for the vote. But you have to admit that even in the Oz system even our results can be skewed beyond each individual’s political ideal due to policy bribery (tax cut, tax cut, samting bonus, etc).
    PS: great job on the garamut

    @Peter Warwick and @All:
    There’s lots of intelligent and even educated PNGeans who, even if they’re working OS, have come back to vote and/or participate and support in other ways for this election (I’ve talked to several over recent times). Ditto for those who remain residents. Jaded or frustrated or indignant as they might be – men and women – it appears to this interested outsider’s lukim in viewpoint that the young of the future, and even the not-so-young, are far more aware of what’s going on (for their home region, their local place of residence and on a national front), are less worried about and more active discussing the issues and potentialities (on the bus, in the office, via internet-based social media), and feeling more empowered. It might take take for the system to change, and whether or not that change is fast enough to help those that really need it and if outside assistance is requested or needed and if so how much and in what way, I guess we’ll all see.

    @Mike Pepperday @Tavurvur: Yep, they need more women in positions of influence (except that Tiffanie lawyer lady!) and in parliament. Like in any culture, not only having access to 50% of the brain power of the country will help, but also the influence and access to the (generally) more peaceful, socially-minded and more inclusive methods of dealing with issues, negotiation and so forth would be oh so advantageous. So sad to see Dame Carole Kidu go. Hope that the very few of the 134 female candidates that are currently going well in the poll counts succeed – for the sake of the nation and not just me as an interested female!

  20. LalaPippi says:

    Correction for ‘run-totin’ typo:
    that’s ” Gun-totin’ ” for both security peoples and pollies.
    Aside: Only one day after the call went out (a month or so ago) for the politicians to leave their guns at home during the lead-up to the vote, I watched as a sitting member from an island province secure and then later retrieve his personal gun at check-in and then on arrival into POM! This guy really should have known better. Seems to me it’s just inviting trouble.

  21. Mike Pepperday says:

    Pappinbarra Fox
    “I do not see the “BigMan” as the problem – that is the whole point of my comment – the big man cultural mores can be utilised to produce a melanesian outcome.”

    Okay, so it’s not a problem but a virtue. That misses the point, which is that you are taking it into account. Forget it. The UK govt didn’t take the Irish culture into account. The Spanish have a proud culture—not taken into account. The Norwegians, the Swiss, the Japanese—no recognition of culture in their PR. NZ did not adopt German PR because those two countries have similar cultures. Melanesian culture should influence the political design? Skip it.

    “you seem blinkered by your PR “solution”.” That’s me—it’s the result of looking about the world and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

    All those Australian states that went to PR—must have been blinkered. All those European countries. So blinkered. I don’t understand your scheme? Maybe. In almost all cases the introduction of PR was preceded by years and years of argy-bargy where every politician and commentator put forward his pet scheme. PR has probably been derailed more often than adopted. So know, when you present your idea, that people have come up with thousands of ideas, mostly ill-informed crackpottery.

    For example, in the ACT even after the (blinkered) citizens had voted at referendum to switch to PR, the politicians still had to meddle. They fiddled with the vote counting rules. Expert, official advice told them their scheme was unworkable but they were full of their theories. These know-alls put on this frolic post-1988, after the federal Senate, NSW, SA, and WA had all gone over to PR. Several months after the first PR election in the ACT, the Australian Electoral Commission still couldn’t figure out who had won. Subsequently, the ACT adopted the same process as elsewhere.

    For PNG, in 1975, the Whitlam govt apparently invented a political design out of whole cloth—unicameral majoritarianism. Why did they do it? Where did they get it from? The only explanation I can think of is that it was because Labor had a policy of abolishing upper houses.

    In Queensland the Theodore Labor govt had managed to get the upper house abolished in 1922. They never pulled it off anywhere else. Lang tried it in NSW in the late 1920s but his puppets appointed to the upper house reneged and refused to abolish themselves. (Actually it seems Lang knew they’d renege and he went through the motions as a sop to the Labor policy.)

    So it seems PNG was experimented on for ideological reasons. And it seems their model really was Queensland. Queensland was, at the time, the most electorally corrupt Australian state and possibly the most corrupt overall.

    “I think there are many possible solutions – but all require the eradication/avoidance of selfish corruption.”

    Doubly dead wrong in my view. (a) The only course for PNG is PR and I have shown why. If you have some evidence-based counter arguments, present them. (b) Human nature is as it is; the political design has to cope with it. Alleged selfishness and corruption are not going to change—until the power structure changes and redirects people’s energies.

    There are many varieties of PR and I have no opinion on which is best. (Let the experts on culture argue the relative merits.) I don’t know whether it matters at the macro level. I suppose that as long as there is substantive proportionality—minimum of seven members per electorate—then unicameral PR will probably work.

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