Unexpectedly, a consensus is emerging to keep MMP. A search of the Herald, Stuff and other sites shows that most editorial pages and political commentators are against changing systems, citing MMP as fair and a check on the unbridled power the largest party enjoyed under First Past the Post*. The only notable exception is Fran O’Sullivan, shilling as usual for the anti-democratic interests of the business elite.
Recent polls have shown MMP is the favoured electoral system of 45%-53% of the population. A large portion have no opinion and the remainder are probably split between favouring FFP, SM, or STV. Support for MMP might not be unanimous but it is far and away the most popular system and there is no clamour for change.
Having been anti-MMP before its introduction, there is now little appetite from either major party to change it.
Although John Key supports Supplementary Member (described as FPP with a winner’s bonus) he is clearly not too keen on a change and even less keen on the business elite’s hope of sneaking through a change in a low-turnout (ie right-biased) mid-term referendum. Key says that he doesn’t sense a mood for change and that any vote has to be at a general election to ensure high turnout, otherwise it will lack legitimacy.
Phil Goff has proposed some changes to MMP – no proportionality for parties not exceeding the threshold (eg ACT in 2008), more electorate MPs and fewer from the lists (we have a guest post coming critiquing that idea), and a ban on List MPs waka-jumping – but Labour is now committed to MMP because it is fair and has brought a greater diversity of voices into Parliament.
While I’m not convinced with all of Labour’s initial suggestions, I think Goff has the right idea here – acknowledge that there are some aspects of MMP that the public is dissatisfed with and go into the election offering ways to fix those specific problems without getting rid of the best electoral system around.
Offering the public a choice of throwing out the bathwater while keeping the baby would be popular. Just as importantly, it would show that Labour really is listening. The trick will be in making sure they actually do.
* or, as in 1978 and 1981, the party that came second in the popular vote.