In the wake of an uncertain UK election outcome, the BBC’s Nick Bryant writes that Britain could learn from New Zealand in the art of forming coalition governments.
The article is fascinating from a Kiwi perspective, because it shows just how far we’ve come in our constitutional arrangements since the introduction of MMP in 1996. Our electoral system was very much identical to the UK before then.
It’s clear now, however, considering just how miffed the Brits are of this idea of coalition government, what progress we’ve made in creating accountable and stable representative government.
(I also greatly enjoyed the captioned Winston Peters photograph noting “Winston Peters, kingmaker in 1996, may have overplayed his hand”.)
New Zealand, which switched to proportional representation in the 1990s, may be able to teach the UK some useful lessons in coalition government.
It is a far-flung outpost of the Westminster system, with a capital that bears the name of a former British Prime Minister and a parliamentary chamber adorned still with the British coat of arms.
But Wellington, New Zealand, deviated from Westminster in the mid-1990s when it adopted a system of proportional representation, known as the Mixed Member Proportional system or MMP for short.
Since the 1996 election, the first under the new system, no single party in New Zealand has been able to command a majority.
So Kiwis have come to regard elections as a two-phase affair: first, the voting; and second, the period of government formation that follows afterwards which often takes weeks.
So are there are lessons to learn from New Zealand if the UK election fails to produce a clear-cut result?
At the next election in 2011, New Zealanders will also get to vote in a referendum whether they want to persist with the present system. The expectation at the moment is that they will.
In the meantime, the common-heard message from New Zealand in the event that the UK election produces no clear winner is curiously British: Stay calm and carry on.
Full article here.