Two elections to watch this weekend
Election watchers have been busy this year. France went to the polls in April and May, and the United Kingdom in June. This weekend there are two elections, one close to home and one on the other side of the world, that Australians might want to keep their eyes on – New Zealand and Germany.
New Zealand: what’s the same, what’s different?
Same: Australia and New Zealand are Commonwealth Realms, sharing Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. Both countries have a prime minister as head of government.
Different: New Zealand uses an electoral system called the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) system. About 60% of the seats are won by single candidates standing in geographical areas. The other 40% are allocated based on the amount of the vote a party receives. In order to win seats, a party has to obtain 5% of the national vote. This cuts down on the number of small parties represented in the parliament.
Same: Like Australia’s, New Zealand’s House of Representatives is elected for a three-year term.
Different: New Zealand’s parliament has no Upper House. New Zealand has historically had governments less stymied by lacking the numbers for significant legislation.
Same: New Zealand’s parliament operates on the Westminster system, and there are two parties that dominate politics. Because of the proportional voting system, however, minor parties are much stronger in New Zealand. Those minor parties might be crucial if the surge to Labour, under new leader Jacinda Ardern, holds and the party wins almost enough seats to govern.
Different: Seven seats in New Zealand’s Parliament are reserved for members of the Maori peoples. The Maori seats are drawn separately over the island, and Maori voters can choose to vote for the Maori seat or the regular constituency.
Germany: what’s different, what’s the same?
Different: Germany is a republic. Its President is chosen by a special college of state and federal parliaments. The country’s leader, the Chancellor, is elected by Parliament.
Same: Like the Australian PM, the German Chancellor is usually the leader of the party or group with a majority in the lower house, known as the Bundestag (Federal Diet¹).
Different: Unlike in Australia, or New Zealand, the Chancellor does not have to be a member of parliament.
Same (as NZ): Like New Zealand, Germany uses a mixed electoral system that combines local members with state-wide lists, based on the proportion of votes received. Also like New Zealand, a party has to win 5% of the vote in order to win one of these ‘list seats’.
Different: The current German government is currently made up of both major parties, who formed a ‘grand coalition’, believing it delivered the most stable government.
Will ‘Jacindamania’ triumph and unseat a conservative government? Will Merkel win her historic fourth term? Two countries, one a world away, one just over the sea, but Australians who love elections will be watching both this weekend with baited breath.
- This is nothing to do with weight loss! ‘Diet’ is an old word for assembly or parliament, derived from the Greek diaita, or ‘daily’. The word came to mean both daily nutritional needs and daily work, such as that of a parliament. The Japanese Parliament also uses the word Diet to denote its lower house, mostly because Japan was heavily influenced by German thought when devising its constitution.