This post is purely a hypothetical attempt at showing how New Zealand might become a Republic.
The republic debate is one that has been simmering off and own in New Zealand. It has had periods when politicians have advocated for a Republic and periods when there has been support for retaining the Monarchy. In his tenure as Prime Minister, former National leader Jim Bolger was an advocate for it, as was former Labour leader Helen Clark. Neither so much suggested it was imminent as an eventuality. Neither made serious steps in terms of getting New Zealand ready. And perhaps with good reason. Although the Monarchy took a hit in popularity when Princess Diana died and the Queen was viewed as out of touch with Britons, it staged a renaissance around the Queens 50th Jubilee.
I believe the time for a referendum on the issue should be after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II dies. At that point Prince Charles is likely to succeed as heir to the throne. It should be done in two binding referendums. A simple majority of 51% shall not be sufficient because it would be a contentious issue – a super majority that cannot be overcome, such as 66% or 75% of votes will be necessary. The referendum process should be a two stage affair:
- Stage One: A referendum asking IF New Zealanders wish for the country to become a Republic
- Stage Two (only to proceed if the question in Stage One is YES): Ask what type of Republic we want, and run off the two most popular choices if there is a dead heat
Whilst organizing the referendums, there will need to be national debate about whether or not a Republic should be formed. It will need to be held in public, in the media and in Parliament. It will have to answer basic questions about why New Zealand should/not become one. When it comes to what the options are, New Zealanders need to know it can take several forms:
- A Parliamentary Republic such as France – the President is largely a figurehead and the Prime Minister does the day to day running
- A Federal Republic such as Germany – this would involve states with their own senates and a
- A Presidential Republic such as the United States – the President actually has considerable powers and in some respects is the nations top diplomat
Other forms of Republic that are not likely to be considered by New Zealanders are an Islamic Republic, such as what Iran is, or a Peoples Republic, as China is.
In terms of which we are closer to, it is probably a Parliamentary Republic. New Zealand already has a Parliament and the Prime Minister from one day to the next is responsible for the running of the country, which is how a Parliamentary Republic would run. It is the version I would favour because the disruption in the process of forming is likely to be the least of the three likely options.