A Policy of Honesty: Election Manifesto Pledge Fulfilment in New Zealand 1972-2005.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The 1980s and 1990s was a period in which dramatic changes occurred in New Zealand’s political landscape. These changes affected many aspects of the way democracy in New Zealand was understood and operated. In the 10 years from 1984- 1994, New Zealand moved from being a highly protected reasonably insular mixed economy with significant levels of state intervention in most areas of the socioeconomic framework to one with permeable borders that was quickly globalising based on a market-model for both domestic and international business functions. This was accompanied by a change in the electoral system from a simple majoritarian plurality first-past-the-post system to a mixed member proportional representation system that led to the breakdown of single-party government as it gave way to coalition politics. The causes of this latter shift related to a feeling that the previous system was both unfair and gave too much power to a few individuals in one party who seemed to have limited accountability. It was the belief of a substantial portion of the electorate that successive governments had breached the people’s trust by ignoring unwritten conventions around implementing an electoral mandate based on campaign manifesto promises. This thesis seeks for the first time to answer how real these perceptions were by assessing pledge fulfilment before 1984, during the 1984 to 1996 period, and after the advent of MMP, in order to reveal any changes that have occurred across this critical period in New Zealand’s political history in relation to the application of the mandate theory of democratic government. It will also provide insight for the first time into the impact changing an electoral system has on election policy implementation for major parties and raises important questions about popular ideas of democracy, electoral support for election promise-keeping and methods of accountability as traditional notions of democracy are challenged by the revealed reality of both government action and voter reaction.