Monday, June 7, 2010

Are we seeing a UK-style, third party scenario emerging?

MONDAY COMMENT: A week is a long time in politics... and yet we have started this week as we did the last with a major newspaper poll showing that the Coalition is in front of Labor, both major party leaders are losing popularity and minor parties, notably the Greens, are receiving record levels of support.

Taken together, these polls suggest that one in four Australians are either 'parking' their vote outside the major parties or planning to vote for a minor party. The Greens, as the largest of these, gain most of the media attention.

Minor parties thought to represent Christians voters, such as Family First or Christian Democratic Party, are not mentioned as their poll support is too low.

But one issue not mentioned in relation to these latest polls, is how will the broad sweep of Christians vote? This is an issue not to be ignored as it may well have been the deciding factor for the past two federal elections.

And Christians need to engage with the political process at some level because Australia could, at some point, follow the path of the UK where a third party emerged in the two-party system and is now sharing power in Government.
Every election there is talk that people are growing tired of adversarial politics and alternatives are looking more popular. But in the end, voters, for the House of Representatives at least, return to their traditional Labor/Liberal base.

One day, though, it is possible there will be enough of a shift to see lower house candidates from minor parties elected and force their way towards power sharing arrangements.

Are the Greens the kind of party that Australians want in that position? And, from the perspective of this website, is this what Christian voters want?  Are they the 'centre' party that might bridge the gap? In reality, the Greens have come out of the far left of politics and it has been the astute juggling of parliamentary leader Bob Brown that has allowed them to seem more like a reasonable, mainstream alternative.

Meanwhile, the 'Christian aligned' parties are not seriously considered as third party alternatives although Family First is doggedly attempting to portray themselves more as a party for 'small business and family' than a exclusively Christian party. And it is true that their constitution does not carry any direct Christian or Biblical references, unlike the Christian Democratic Party.

So here's some pointed questions for Christian voters:

1. If you are feeling like voting for the Greens, how well do you know their broader policies and more importantly, the core of their support base? Do they align with your deepest values?
2. Does a vote for a Christian party first, followed by your own preferences, send a message to the other parties, even if the Christian candidate doesn't win?
3. Which policies of the major or minor parties are most important to you as a Christian and what are you prepared to sacrifice in voting for them?
4. Are you prepared to get to know the candidates in your electorate and vote for the person you believe best represents you?

A week is indeed a long time in politics and a week from now, we might return to a more traditional Liberal/Labor tug of war and the idea of one in four Australians voting outside the major parties might seem a fantasy. But if not, if this idea only grows, then it will be a time for much prayer, much preparation and much action. PH

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