Over the past few years, I’ve noticed discussion regarding the experience of parliamentarians and whether career politicians can actually or perhaps perpetually connect with the people they purport to represent.
In my view, when a politician sits in parliament on a six figure salary for decades, I’m not convinced we can say they can understand the experiences of their constituents, and in that case, I wonder if they are in a position to develop policy that meaningfully addresses the issues that matter to us – the People.
One way of addressing this, might be to consider limiting how long an MP can serve in successive terms (e.g. 2-3 terms in other words 6-9 years), and then imposing a whakatā (rest period) on their candidacy for at least one full term (3 years).
My view is that in imposing a rest period creates a separation between people (MP’s) and (political) power so that our politicians never lose sight of the power they have as politicians over people.
I suspect those who have served or want to serve as MP’s may oppose such limitations, and also others may say it’s anti-democratic because it removes the ability of the community to continue to support the candidate they believe through the testament of time to best represent their community. That is a criticism that would need to be further explored, but in my opinion, if we are going to have a representative democracy, then there should be mechanisms that facilitate greater representation and reflects the diversity of our country, rather than the status quo endorsing duopoly (Labour v National) that largely hinders this process.
Arguably, a parliamentary term whakatā may improve democracy because (i) it might increase local engagement if the seat is no longer betrothed to a particular candidate, (ii) it might increase competition between candidates and therefore, providing better representation of the community issues, and (iii) it may remove the barriers to other parties obtaining recognition in a particular community, so that people are voting on the choices available and not simply according to traditional preferences of the particular electorates.
I’m not sure how this would work in practice, but I do think it would be an interesting area to explore.