Small parties battle election arithmetic

By Patrick Crewdson

Despite having virtually no hope of victory, tiny political parties continue to tilt at electoral windmills.

Below are profiles of all the minor contestants in this year's election.

Direct Democracy Party

Leader: Kelvyn Alp
Founded: January 2005
Claimed membership: 560

Kelvyn Alp expects to be labelled a conspiracy theorist. A former leader of the Armed Intervention Force - the defunct paramilitary wing of the separatist Maori Government of Aotearoa - Alp now fronts the Direct Democracy Party. Among other things, the party believes the generally accepted version of the Treaty of Waitangi is a counterfeit and the country's top politicians have been bought by vested interests.

"Of course, a conspiracy theory is just an idea that there's a conspiracy without corresponding evidence," he explains patiently. "However ... legislation is being passed without our best interests at heart. That no longer becomes a conspiracy theory, it becomes a conspiracy fact."

Direct Democracy's core tenet is replacing the current system of representative democracy with one heavily dependent on binding referenda. "They believe one vote every three years is democracy. I think one vote every three years is a bloody dictatorship," says the former soldier.

The party advocates scrapping the taxation system in favour of a single transaction tax (thereby, they say, creating full employment); proposes establishing an inventors' commission for the investigation of worthwhile inventions; and would close the borders to all immigrants except the most highly skilled.

Alp's personal motivation is to re-cast self-aggrandising MPs as obedient servants of the masses.

"People shouldn't say to us, 'What are you going to do for us?' You tell us what you want done, that's how it works."

The father of five is convinced Direct Democracy will win seats at this election. If he can't topple Labour's George Hawkins in Manurewa, colleague Patrick Fahy will surely unseat National's Murray McCully in East Coast Bays, he says. In Christchurch East, the party will be hoping for a boost from Kyle Chapman, who, until recently, was leader of the extreme right National Front.

Electoral success would be assured, Alp believes, if the public knew a little more about his party, which he describes as a cross between NZ First, the Libertarianz, and a splash of all the others.

"If everyone in the country spoke to me or to anyone in the party and checked out the website ... we'd take everything. We'd take every damn seat. I'm serious - we would."

99 MP Party

Leader: Margaret Robertson
Founded: 2002
Claimed membership: 500+

Softly-spoken 77-year-old Margaret Robertson whet her appetite for politics seven years ago when her campaign for a petition on cutting the number of MPs from 120 to 99 successfully forced a referendum in 1999 at which 81 per cent of voters cast their ballots in support.

Unfortunately for the retired bureaucrat, the referendum was not binding, and a committee of MPs recommended it be ignored.

"That's causing a certain amount of fear among people. They say, 'if they can do this, what else can they do to us?'."

For the Wellington resident, the solution was to form a political party.

The first order of business: cutting the number of MPs from 120 to 99 and the number of cabinet ministers from around 25 to 12.

"Every person we keep in parliament surplus to requirements ... [is] a waste of our taxes," says Robertson. "I would prefer to see young families have that money in their pocket."

She argues the number of MPs should have been cut following the asset sales of the 1980s and 1990s, because their workload logically should have decreased.

Not wanting to be written off as single-issue lobbyists, the party has also produced a manifesto. The 99 MP Party favours frequent and binding citizen-initiated referenda and would back plans to staunch the flow of immigrants.

Other proposals - such as supporting any legislation that helps senior citizens and ensuring anyone who applies for taxpayer money submits a detailed plan first - seem less than perfectly defined. But that may not matter as Robertson insists the party's candidates would happily quit parliament once the number of MPs were cut.

One NZ

Leader: Richard Fisher
Founded: October 1999
Claimed membership: 5000

National, NZ First and Act are all on the right track when it comes to race relations, says One NZ leader Richard Fisher - they just don't go far enough. Employing rhetoric with a familiar ring to it - policy should be based on need, not race - Fisher describes a New Zealand he believes has become so saturated with political correctness as to have become racist in reverse.

One NZ wants to abolish the Maori seats, the Waitangi Tribunal and Maori Land Court, and grant the Treaty of Waitangi the status of a historical document, but nothing more. There should be no Maori policy.

Such policies are not racist, the Foxton-based poultry plant production manager maintains; he spent a lot of time on marae as a youngster and even now can discuss politics with Maori mates.

"If you talk to people out there ... they're all sick to death of hearing about the Treaty of Waitangi," he says. "It's not what Maori are doing to this country, it's what the Government is doing."

Standing only seven candidates, the party may well struggle to better its 2002 result of 0.09 per cent of the party vote.

Like its companion minor parties, One NZ supports binding citizens referenda and further controls on immigration. It would also introduce the death penalty for what it describes as first-degree murder.

But the main focus is unequivocally on dismantling anything approaching biculturalism.

"I want to see my Maori neighbour do just as well as I do but I don't want to see him being given anything more than I do, other than what his need is," Fisher says.

"Why should he receive any preferential treatment simply because he's of a different race? That, to me, is apartheid. And that's what the Government's been doing since 1976 - slowly bringing apartheid rule into this country."

The Republic of New Zealand Party

Leader: John Kairau
Founded: April 2005
Claimed membership: 3000

John Kairau wants to be President of New Zealand.

The half-Maori former court interpreter is the leader and one of seven candidates for the Republic of New Zealand Party, formed in April from the merger of two republican groups.

The party's aim is simple: to cut all ties with the British monarchy and install a New Zealander as head of state. A president, elected at large by the citizens, would replace the Governor-General as a figurehead, with parliament continuing as normal. As party leader, Kairau would naturally become the interim president until a new vote could be called.

Independence from the Queen is the party's main plank but, like One NZ and Direct Democracy, it also runs a strong line in race relations. The Treaty of Waitangi would be stripped of any constitutional status, replaced by a new document that fully recognises all New Zealanders as equal partners in the country's future.

Despite having worked with the separatist Confederation of United Tribes and describing himself as passive to Maori sovereignty, Kairau is adamant on the importance of a one-law-for-all credo.

"Maori cannot do it under our own steam," he says. "We have to reunite. We must try to pull the citizens of this country back together."

As with many other minor parties, RONZP backs binding referenda (one every six months) and identifies most strongly with NZ First of all the parliamentary parties.

And while constitutional ties with the UK would be severed, the party hopes to mend relationships with the United States.

Kairau has posted an information pack to the US Embassy in Wellington and is seeking a meeting to discuss trade and the nuclear issue. Nuclear-propelled ships would be welcomed, he says, although nuclear weapons would remain verboten.

"I would be looking forward to opening up negotiations with the Bush administration," he says.

Not forgetting the other minor players

The Alliance: More a fallen hero than a true minor party. The party took 7.7 per cent of the party vote in 1999 and went into government with Labour. But the Alliance suffered a damaging split with leader Jim Anderton and dived to below 2 per cent in 2002.

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

As the name suggests, would make marijuana legal. Would also create jobs by developing a hemp industry. Led by Michael Appleby.

Christian Heritage

Took 4.3 per cent of the party vote in 1996 as part of the Christian Coalition. Standing this year on an "ABC" platform: "Affirm marriage, Build families, and Celebrate life as God's precious gift". Damaged by the high-profile child sex convictions of former leader Graham Capill.

Destiny NZ

Political wing of Brian Tamaki's Destiny Church. Led by former policeman Richard Lewis. Advocates "family values" and would repeal the Civil Union Act.

Libertarianz

Followers of the libertarian philosophy of individual freedom and a minimal state. Aims to establish "a constitutional republic of New Freeland". Formerly led by journalist Lindsay Perigo.

National Front

Extreme right-wing anti-immigration party, led by Sid Wilson since Kyle Chapman stood down in May. Merged with ultra-nationalist NZ Patriot Party this year but will not be contesting this election. Supports NZ First, Direct Democracy and Destiny NZ.

New Zealand Democratic Party for Social Credit

An old favourite. Earned 21 per cent of the vote at the 1981 election but won only two seats. Acquired a reputation as the "funny money" party because of its economic policy.

New Zealand Family Rights Protection Party

A new party primarily comprised of Pacific Islanders, who it claims the established parties neglect.

Win Party

Founded by South Island publicans John van Buren and Geoff Mulvihill in protest at the law banning smoking in bars. Stands for freedom from the "oppressive constraint of the nanny state".

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