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Can the CDP turn around its voting decline?

Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats has come through a torrid season of internal disruption – but with fewer members.

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After a couple of “young Turks” sprung votes of no confidence in the party board at a state council meeting in June – and the subsequent uproar caused the meeting be abandoned – the party faithful got the chance to vote on whether they had confidence in the party leadership. They proved faithful. The no-confidence vote was lost overwhelmingly – and all the sides involved agree on that.

Dr Con Kafataris, a doctor from Greystanes in western Sydney, moved the motions of no confidence against Party President Ross Clifford and Vice-Presidents Fred Nile and Paul Green.

“The party is like a personality cult, which is run like a church where the senior pastor is untouchable,” Kafataris tells Eternity. “People say things like ‘they are God’s anointed’ and said of the motions ‘there is a spirit of division in this room’. This makes discussion impossible.

“I believe the CDP is like a patient diagnosed with a fatal condition. They won’t listen to their medical practitioner or follow what they say.”

“The Titanic is already sinking and the majority of the membership would rather sink with it than find a lifeboat.” — Samraat Grewal

The good doctor has had enough and plans to leave the party. “Whether it is in one year, or two, or in four years when Fred’s seat is up for election, the party will die.”

Samraat Grewal, one of the young disrupters back in June, has an equally dire diagnosis. “The brand is utterly and completely destroyed,” he tells Eternity. “The Titanic is already sinking and the majority of the membership would rather sink with it than find a lifeboat.

“In my opinion, based on the membership projections I found whilst working in the head office, it’ll only take 200 members to either resign or pass away for the Electoral Commission to deregister the party. I put that at two years.”

The CDP’s official press release says, “The State Council meeting voted overwhelmingly against the motion of no confidence in the executive of the CDP … The meeting was positive and on the whole proceeded in good spirit.”

Critics, however, point out that in the “secret ballot” members were asked to write their names on their ballot papers.

“We should look at appropriate succession planning to see what people we should go forward with – a younger generation of leaders.” — Ross Clifford

Party President Ross Clifford tells Eternity he believes the party can achieve reform. He is of the opinion that a series of motions of no confidence has slowed down real reform efforts.

“What the party needs is to go back to the McCrindle process. This is a survey to determine what policy priorities we should pursue. And go through a SWOT process [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats] – the major parties do this after each election.

“We should look at appropriate succession planning to see what people we should go forward with – a younger generation of leaders.”

We asked Eternity readers for feedback: a number still believe that a Christian political party is desirable, while others want to see what policies emerge.

A turnaround in a declining vote is required to make sure a Legislative Council member is returned in four years’ time. Voters for the similar right-wing and largely Christian Australian Conservatives failed to preference the CDP in this year’s state election, which caused NSW CDP member Paul Green to lose his seat.

Here is the CDP vote in the NSW upper house in recent elections:

2011 First preference votes 118,892 – 3.01 per cent

2015 First preference votes 126,304 – 2.93 per cent, a 4 per cent decline from 2011.

2019 First Preference votes 101,328 – 2.28 per cent, a 22 per cent decline from 2015.

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