Currently, we are seeing a growing trend among both media outlets and community groups to pre-select our options in democratic debates and elections.
If we look at this year’s local body elections, we saw in both Auckland and Wellington mayoral races that the media limited their coverage to about three pre-selected candidates. In Wellington, the focus was on then-current mayor Andy Foster and challengers Tory Whanau and Paul Eagle. Election night results had businessman Ray Chung in third ahead of Eagle. Had Chung, along with others, been included in media coverage the result would most likely have been different.
Even in the recent Hamilton by-election, the media and community groups have limited the candidates profiled. Whilst there are twelve candidates, there is no guarantee that any of the main party candidates are actually the best for representing the local people. Recent local meet-the-candidates events promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and The Taxpayers Union have invited only five of the candidates to speak. How can such groups say that candidate number six or ten is not the best candidate for the electorate?
The value of a democracy is that anyone can put themselves forward to represent their community or present their viewpoint. It actually takes a lot of courage and usually cost to stand publicly as a candidate and this should be respected by both the media and community groups.
New Conservative believe that every candidate should be treated equally and given equal opportunity in the media and public arena to present their case. There should be no pre-selection where only a limited group of candidates are given an opportunity to speak or are profiled in the media.
Democracy may be inconvenient at times but to work it has to be used by all.