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Campaign to save MMP underway

Written By: - Date published: 2:19 pm, November 10th, 2008 - 79 comments
Categories: activism - Tags:

The Right hates MMP. The old system, FPP, advantaged the Right by about 1.5% according to this study. In 1978, 1981, and 1993 the Right governed despite the Left having more support. Under FPP, National was the ‘natural party of government’ and that has changed under MMP.

So, the National/Act government plans to have a referendum on MMP, thinking it can use the power of government to win the public’s support.

Just as a grassroots movement was needed to bring us MMP in the first place, another movement will be needed to argue the case for keeping it. Already, the base of this organisation is being established: The Campaign to Save MMP.

From their press release:

A second referendum on the issue is not something to fear, but an opportunity for New Zealanders to show they believe in fairness in their electoral system. The Campaign to Save MMP will be an independent, non-partisan effort to inform voters of the benefits of MMP and show them the downside of other electoral systems. Our first meeting is at Auckland University Students Association executive chambers, 7pm Thursday the 13th of November.

MMP is just one of the democratic institutions and rights that will be at risk under National/Act. Do your part to help defend it.

79 comments on “Campaign to save MMP underway”

  1. TimeWarp 1

    The approach seems rigged to me. There will be two phases to the questions asked of the public from what I have read. The first being, “do you want to retain MMP?” The second if MMP is not wanted, “what system would you prefer?”

    So instead of asking whether a proportional system is wanted, and then which one it would be – as happened with the initial referedum in 1993 – there is in my opinion significant risk of the proportionality baby being thrown out with the MMP bathwater

    This risk would arise in answering the second question where a majority of the population favouring proportionality would spread their selection across a variety of proportionality options, allowing a FPP option to come through the middle.

    Seems to me this is would be a process having all the trappings of consultative democracy but none of the substance.

  2. I wonder though, National do not have a majority themselves, and any minor party who is willing to side with them to change away from a proportionate system is pretty much committing electrol suicide. Not saying we should be complacent, prehaps we just need to lobby the minor parties on that point.

  3. gingercrush 3

    The right doesn’t hate MMP. The right may not necessarily like MMP but all they are saying is that the public will have a say on their opinion of MMP. That is all there is. So indeed if you on the left wish for MMP to stay then by all means fight it. But its simply a poll on MMP. Also more important and for both sides is MMP isn’t perfect. Been a bit of talking on the left saying the threshold is too high and that to much weight is given to smaller parties who win electorates.

    Since National won rather easily and since its the centre-right plus the passionate left who are likely to vote in this poll. I think you’ll find MMP comes out on top rather easily.

    I think there are plenty of problems with MMP. Still gives too much weight to smaller parties. Does give too much power to minor parties that hold electorate seats. Still lacks certain functions in a democracy. The fact 6% or more of the vote was wasted this election.

    I would like to see debates from the right and left on how we can improve MMP to make it better for all citizens. Sadly I can’t see that happening.

  4. The best way to improve MMP would be removing the threshold. That would remove the undemocratic elements we saw on Saturday – tactical voting, overhangs and large wasted vote.

  5. TimeWarp 5

    GC. There’s a hard core that strongly opposed (hated) MMP – the Peter Shirtcliffe brigade – and judging by recent comments on KiwiBlog and elsewhere you have some persuading to do before I believe they’ve gone away.

  6. The right don’t hate MMP, the Tories do.

    I’ll be happy to help fight to keep it, and as has been mentioned above, we need to make sure the alternatives are discussed before deciding whether to dump MMP.

    -Peter McCaffrey
    -ACT Candidate for Otaki

  7. gingercrush 7

    Removing the threshold is perhaps simplistic. Do we really want parties that get 1% having seats in parliament? Seems far too messy. There is a case for New Zealand First. I do recall it was originally going to be 4% when introduced in 1996. Interesting had that been in place, that would have let the Christian Coalition in. Not sure the left would have liked that.

    The overhang is largely just Maori seats. I’m not sure exactly how that process for number of Maori seats work. Is it simply registrations to the Maori roll? Seven seats and all had a total of 17, 000 to 18, 000 votes in comparison to the general electorates with 27, 000+ outside a few South Auckland seats and Waitakere.

  8. brownie 8

    Why do you say “hate”? Is that the same way that MMP now advantages the Left so the Left “love” MMP? Proportional representation is here to stay, guys – whether it be MMP, STV or something else.

    Steveo, why do you resent us (i.e all the people/workers/bosses) talking about it and also why do you immediately assume that FPP is what they may be looking at? Do you dislike dialogue or non-partisanship? Are you saying that MMP is the ONLY system of worth?

    Captcha: Pistol Law

    Is that what will happen if someone disagrees with you?

  9. gingercrush ‘Do we really want parties that get 1% having seats in parliament? Seems far too messy’ . that doesn’t sound like much of an argument to me.

    remember, national is only government now because NZF couldn’t get 0.8% more of the vote and because National voters tactically voted in Epsom. Both are results of the threshold.

    i shouldn’t have put overhang on that list, remvoing the threshold wouldn’t change it.

  10. the sprout 10

    my recommendation would be to call it the “Campaign to Protect MMP”.

    this implies MMP is something to be treasured and defended.

    “Campaign to Save MMP” implies it’s already in trouble and approaching extinction.

  11. brownie. STV isn’t a proportional system.

    I’m not opposed to debating other systems at all. I’m also happy that, having examined just about every democratic electoral system on Earth, MMP is the best, which is why it is being picked up in more and more countries.

  12. “Steve Pierson

    The best way to improve MMP would be removing the threshold. That would remove the undemocratic elements we saw on Saturday – tactical voting, overhangs and large wasted vote”

    It would have left the Bill and Ben party with the balance of power, but the country has spoken!

    Then again, this is along the lines of enfranchisement, the ones who are already in parliament have no motivation to make it any easier for others to get in

  13. gingercrush 13

    Well the left knew what the threshold was. You can’t complain about New Zealand First not getting in and because of that thresholds need to be cut. If it was the reverse and lets say a party like the Christian Coalition and got 4.2% kinda like they did in 1996. The left surely would not be happy with it and would certainly not be asking for changes in threshold.

    The reason there is a need for a threshold. Is I don’t want parties with no real mandate having a say when it isn’t warranted. Whether that is a far-right or far-left or a centre party. That doesn’t mean discussions can’t take place to change the threshold. But some certain threshold is needed.

  14. “gingercrush

    The reason there is a need for a threshold. Is I don’t want parties with no real mandate having a say when it isn’t warranted. Whether that is a far-right or far-left or a centre party. That doesn’t mean discussions can’t take place to change the threshold. But some certain threshold is needed.”

    I don’t like old people, I don’t thing they should have a say in things. Any other votes for which groups shouldn’t have a say?

  15. brownie 15

    Fair one Steve.

    I just think its a wee bit early to protect something that is not under threat – merely just talked about.

  16. gingercrush 16

    Well lets say the threshold was 1.2% which is what two MPs in government. Neither is an electorate seat. Does a party that gets 1.2% deserve to be in Parliament? I don’t think so. Is there merit for the threshold to change from 5% to 3 or 4%? Maybe. But I can’t see he left being open to that idea if a party like what Christian Coalition was got in with 4% of the vote. If the results were different and New Zealand First did get 5% meaning Maori held the power for who and who could not form the government and they chose the centre-right. Would anyone on the left be calling for changes in thresholds? I hardly think so.

    Also massive cuts in the threshold, means minor parties holding the balance of party and that is hardly fair for either the centre-left or the centre-right.

  17. Chris S 17

    Steve, STV is most definitely proportional. And, when implemented correctly, will provide the smallest margin of wasted votes of any electoral system.

  18. Felix 18

    The Sprout is right.

    One lesson we need to take from this election is the effective use of language. The right won largely without the facts or figures on their side by being better at telling their story.

    Language matters.

  19. brownie 19

    Steve: FYI from that fount of all knowledge Wiki

    “The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a system of preferential voting designed to minimize wasted votes and provide proportional representation while ensuring that votes are explicitly expressed for individual candidates rather than for party lists”.

  20. Maybe, there could be some argument for lowering the MMP threshold, to say 3%. That would mean the minimum number of seats a party would have would be 4 or the number of electorates they won.

    I don’t agree with abolishing it totally however. Both the Christian Coalition (1996) and New Zealand First (2008) would gain representation under this model. Why, you say, and some commentators have suggested Israel. However, Israeli is solely PR, not MMP, and their party situation is horribly divided. 3% of the vote requires only 66 – 70,000 votes approx (on current numbers).

    The party structure in New Zealand seems semi-permanent at this stage, and that is a good thing in most respects, but there needs to be a demonstrated ability to be able to break the MMP threshold from wholly outside. Only ACT (1996) has managed to that, thanks to their well-heeled supporters (I am including the Greens as part of the Alliance).

    For parties that may struggle to top 8% at the best of times, 5% seems an awfully high barrier.

  21. the sprout 21

    thanks Felix. i agree with you that the Right are consistently better with their use of language and story telling.

    the Left’s consistent mistake is to overlook the importance of emotion and the non-rational component of effective campaigning. having the best logical arguments does not a winning campaign make.

  22. rouppe 22

    My recollection of the initial “discussion” around choosing the proportional system was that there was an “education program”.

    This “education program” muttered about a few other systems, and them pushed and pushed and pushed MMP. The people’s interest in politics then was just as bad as it is now, so the lemmings just ticked the box they had heard most about.

    That’s how we got MMP.

    At least this referendum isn’t asking patsy questions designed to lead the voter to the desired result

  23. How does STV create proportionality? It doesn’t in Australia. It doesn’t in any other jurisdiction that has it.

  24. Vinsin 24

    Removing the threshold seems like a good idea to me. It’ll probably cause a lot more people to vote, on Saturday around about twenty of my friends weren’t going to vote because who they wanted to vote for was a party that wasn’t even on the political map, and so they felt they might as well stay home.

    Maybe lowering the threshold or getting rid of it completely will make more people think about what they actually really care about and not be pigeonholed into these two out-dated political parties to form a government. I’m kind of tired of this idea that the reason for an election to choose a government and if you’re party doesn’t get in that your vote was wasted, it’s not true, an election is really about gauging what people want and having a representation of that either in government or in opposition.

    To be honest I can’t really see any party making changes like the threshold criteria to MMP, it’ll basically undermine any power they have. I’d be keen to help out on the campaign for this though.

  25. Helena 25

    A binding referendum on MMP is well overdue and was meant to happen after two MMP elections. The problem for me with MMP is the list MP’s, where the electorate dumps them, only to find that they get back into Parliament on the list, so who are they really representing? Yep, the party’s interests, rather than any electorate. And if anything, the threshold should be higher, not lower. Or did you enjoy having Winston being Kingmaker twice over? Especially the first time, when he held the country to ransom for eight long weeks while he dilly dallied. Bring on the referendum, this election result was a vote against MMP as well as a lurch to the hard, radical Left. The right in charge now, wow!

  26. Helena there was never any promise of a rerferendum on MMP after two elections. If there was, someone could provide a direct quote or link to that promise.

    There was a Parliamentary review of MMP after two elections. Which found it was a damn sight better than FPP

  27. Matthew Pilott 27

    A binding referendum on MMP is well overdue and was meant to happen after two MMP elections.

    I gather this is a popular myth but don’t have the detail to back the assertion that it’s not true.

    so who are they really representing?

    Simple. The people who voted for that party with their party vote… They’re representing interests of the whole country, instead of being beholden to a specific electorate. I quite like that aspect of MMP actually.

  28. Vinsin 28

    Helena, if anything i think National’s win proves there’s nothing wrong with MMP. If the will of the people is truly with a party then MMP still works, if it isn’t, then it doesn’t. Secondly, Winston provided a voice for a fairly large section of society, that was why he was able to be Kingmaker not because of MMP – if he didn’t have their support where would he be? Probably where he is now.

  29. Chris S 29

    By the by, if eliminating the threshold isn’t an option, maybe tinkering with the idea that winning an electorate seat doesn’t release your party from the threshold.

    It would make the “wasted vote” worse, but it would seemingly make the NZF vs. ACT situation a bit fairer.

  30. Ben R 30

    “if he didn’t have their support where would he be? Probably where he is now.”

    Will Winston now get into talkback radio? I imagine he would have a supportive audience. Also, he is probably due to write a book?

  31. Felix 31

    Yeah I’ve never really understood why getting an electorate seat should make your party votes suddenly relevant if they weren’t already.

    Ben, give the man a tv show. Let him interview journalists about their most recent work.

  32. Pascal's bookie 32

    What’s the justification for letting electorate MP’s drag camp followers along with them if they don’t make the threshold? I never really understood that.

    And I think Steve is right that STV is not proportional. As I understand it, if a party got 10 percent of the first preference votes in every electorate, the most likely outcome is that in every electorate their votes would be reallocated to those voters’ second preference.

  33. DeeDub 33

    The threshold is there to keep out the lunatic fringe. I’m a proportional proponent but as for how these systems work without thresholds….. mmmmmm Weimar Germany anyone?

    I think we messed up when we added electorate seats into the mix – we should have gone fully proportional IMO… maybe with a slightly reduced threshold to encourage diversity without letting out-and-out nutters into the house… say between 3 and 4%.

  34. Pascal's bookie 34

    I think the nutter vote would drop if the threshold wasn’t there. It’s a safety barrier for protest votes. ( It may take an election or two though. Fun!)

    The only ones that might sneak in would the Christian Conservatives, and that doesn’t bother me. Firstly, they are completely incompetent in NZ. Secondly, they have no real chance of influencing the major parties, their policy preferences are just too toxic to the centre.

  35. Helena
    “The problem for me with MMP is the list MP’s, where the electorate dumps them, only to find that they get back into Parliament on the list, so who are they really representing? Yep, the party’s interests”

    I live back and foward between two completely different cities what am I supposed to do? get a vote in both of them?

    By removing list votes your essentially saying a minority in any given geographic area should not have representation, I don’t like the sound of that.

    Is there anyway you can justify the outcome of the 1979 and 1981 elections as anything other than a quirk of the electrol system?

    I’m not really comfortable with talking about a lower threshold, to me any argument agaisnt a 5% threshold equally applies against a 4% threshold. It should be done away with all together.

  36. Janet 36

    I think the right will settle on their preferred option and then push it with lots of money and influence. It probably won’t be FPP but something just as likely to entrench the rich or rural. Maybe supplementary member. Jim Bolger hinted at this on election night. He recognised that FPP won’t fly again but that it would be desirable to change to something other than MMP.

    So what are the options so we can be fully informed?

  37. Daveski 37

    I’m enjoying MMP more now that National has learnt to play the game. Beforehand, I think they were stuck in FPP mode.

    As I recall, MMP came about not because of any perception that it was better but because of massive distrust of politicians after they got elected (Labour in particular although ironically I would support what they did).

    So the perception was that MMP would give the punters more power to select “their” local candidate and take power away from the parties.

    The reality of course is somewhat different and particularly the fact that the party controls the party list while the belief is that the tail wags the dog.

    Beside all that, I am amazed that anyone should be concerned about the possibility of a referendum. Surely, if the people choose a different system, that is a triumph of our democratic system?

  38. Lew 38

    PB has it exactly right – drop the threshold and you change voter behaviour. The only reason McGillicuddy Serious existed is because people knew they’d never get in. The B&B party would never have been elected if people had thought there was the faintest chance they might be.

    I don’t believe there are any genuine reasons to retain the threshold at 5% in a small democracy like NZ’s. I don’t mind seeing it stay if that’s what it takes to retain MMP, but in the ideal case I would reduce it to zero, or perhaps to the point required to field two MPs – 1.6% or so. There are three main arguments put forward, and they’re all invalid. First, the `Weimar Republic’ argument (it was brought down by anti-semitic militaristic demagoguery) is fallacious – Nazi Germany came about because of a complex set of ideological and nationalistic circumstances which began in the 16th Century, crystallised into German unity in the 19th, and the shame and humiliation of Versailles in 1918. It’s an exceptional example where (counterfactually) NO electoral system could have prevented the rise of the Nazis.

    Second, the `Israel’ argument (Israeli politics is unstable and fractured) is flawed for the same reason – it’s a state constructed two generations ago by League of Nations fiat, in direct opposition to the will of the vast majority of those who lived there. Again, arguably NO electoral system could survive. It’s also important to note that there’s no regional or electorate representation – it’s proportional-only. Can’t be compared.

    Third, the `lunatic fringe’ argument (if we have no threshold we’ll be ruled by the maniacs who can’t join a real party). Currently we have a bunch of wacky one-issue and niche parties who attract some small amount of support, partly because nobody believes they’ll get in. I’d put it to you that if 1% or more of people vote for a party in good faith that they might get in, they deserve to be represented – counterfactually again, Graeme Edgeler’s numbers on publicaddress show that the Kiwi Party and the Family Party could have each got a seat, and I think that’s fair enough – they do in fact represent a constituency. Yes, they might be fringe groups, but the nature of MMP is compromise. Let our elected representatives compromise and cooperate – it’ll be good for democracy in the end.

    L

  39. Lew 39

    Janet: As far as I see, if the 2011 referendum to change the system returns favourable, There will broadly be three options:

    1. Revert to FPP
    2. Modify MMP or adopt a similar system
    2. Adopt different system wholesale

    Let me say that I don’t believe the 2011 referendum will find need for a change. But if it does:

    1. I think FPP is dead and gone, so I expect that to be off the table.

    2. I believe the most likely option is to adopt the Additional Member Proportional system, which means the party vote is divided only among the list seats – not the whole parliament. There are 50 party votes in NZ at present, so this would mean a party gains one for each 2% of the party vote (rather than about 0.8% as it is now). This is not strictly a proportional system, but it’s more proportional than MMP.

    3. The most likely totally different system is STV, which Australia uses. You rank candidates, and a candidate doesn’t win until they beat each other candidate outright. As Steve correctly points out, it’s not really a proportional system either (though it can be with a party vote component, which would sort of mean mixed MMP-STV – I don’t know if this has ever been done before). It also produces bizarre results, usually electing the second-most popular candidate in a broad field.

    But yeah. I think the whole question is moot, really.

    L

  40. Lew 40

    … err, that should read `more proportional than FPP’.

    L

  41. Nasi_Lemak 41

    I’m an advocate for MMP, however I wouldn’t mind more public discussion about the topic. At this stage the average kiwi doesn’t know enough about the MMP system or any other electoral system to make an informed decision. Referendums are tricky buggers – just drafting the question is difficult enough….

    Also in reply to the comment “The Right hates MMP”, please take a look at this article: http://www.stuff.co.nz/vote08/4754717a28480.html

    Chris Trotter (Left wing enthusiast) openly castigates voters for exercising their democratic right…

    In this way generalised statements like “The Right hates MMP” are misleading and irresponsible.

    I doubt that there will be an overhaul of MMP under National without careful consideration of any alternatives (and yes, there are alternatives, STV etc). Can you imagine the political fallout of a govt that can’t successfully handle the implementation of a new electoral system? It would be political suicide. National’s promise of a referendum was made to pacify voter dissatisfaction, that’s all. John Key himself said during the election campaign that NZ will not return to FPP.

    Steve makes a good point, as National was in govt more under the FPP system than with MMP. Prior to MMP (1950 – 1996) National was in govt 75% and Labour 25%, and after its inception (1996 – 2005) National 25% and Labour 75%.
    This does perhaps create a certain bias against MMP for National, however the reverse could be said of Labour. With a better track record under MMP, it no doubt has a ‘vested’ interest in ensuring it remains. Food for thought…

    Either way – good on the campaigners – just don’t get too carried away with generalisations…

  42. Ag 42

    I’d be worried if another referendum came along, since I can imagine the wealthy interests behind the “Campaign for Better Government” learning from their mistakes and spending an absolute fortune to make sure that FPP is re-instituted (or some system that returns us to two parties in parliament). It was only luck and incompetence that stopped them from winning last time. IIRC they were ahead going in to the last week of the campaign.

    If FPP returns, I’ll quit voting for good, since I will no longer have any real choice among the parties.

  43. Lew 43

    Ag: That’s the purpose of the campaign …

    L

  44. Bill 44

    Is a successful electoral vote dragging in list members because winning an electorate is seen as being equivalent to 5%? If it was seen as less, then the prospective MP couldn’t enter parliament under the 5% threshold rule.

    And if it is seen as 5%, the %age of vote from the list cannot be uniformly subtracted or discounted without allowing different electorates to count for different %ages….if you see what I mean.

    PB asked about it above, nobody has explained and I’m just trying to figure it out.

    In conclusion, I reckon the whole thing was over thought and the inherent unfairness accepted as part and parcel of the package ’cause they’d thought themselves into a tangle and there were no biscuits left at that particular meeting.

  45. Scribe 45

    Steve,

    The best way to improve MMP would be removing the threshold. That would remove the undemocratic elements we saw on Saturday – tactical voting, overhangs and large wasted vote.

    Are you saying tactical voting is undemocratic? I must be reading your comment incorrectly, in light of your “Smart Vote” series, which advocated for tactical voting.

  46. Lew 46

    Bill: No, it’s not in there for any sensible and rational reason like that. Perhaps if there were only 20 MPs …

    I too support the abolition of the `hitchhiker’ rule.

    L

  47. Janet 47

    I like STV. We have it in Wellington and narrowly voted to retain it recently after the right tried to get rid of it. It is a fairer voting system and people like John Banks wouldn’t have been elected if Akld City Council used it. But it is not proportional.

  48. Lew 48

    Janet: STV is fairer (after a fashion) than FPP. But it’s more or less broken because it chooses a compromise candidate, rather than choosing a diverse range of candidates and making them compromise as part of their job.

    L

  49. TimeWarp 49

    Lew… surely the Member Proportional system is fundamentally FPP in drag?

    It has a veneer of proportionality, but if I understand it correctly a party/coalition could dominate parliament based on winning a huge number of electorates – even if each of those wins was only by a small margin.

  50. gingercrush 50

    lol I must admit seeing Additional Member Proportional System sounded rather nice and something I think most Centre-right parties would be happy about. I don’t think it would be too good democratically. I could easily see National win more electorate seats while Labour wins the Party vote. And thus simply doesn’t work and would naturally favour National surely

  51. Lew 51

    TimeWarp: The idea that a party could win 85% of electorates without winning 50% of the party vote simply strains credibility.

    L

  52. TimeWarp 52

    Lew… what about winning say 45% of the party vote but a majority of electorates? Or do I not understand that system?

  53. Lew 53

    GC: AMP isn’t a bad system, and is a less-bad option than FPP or STV. It is sort-of, if-you-squint proportional, and provides greater certainty and more predictable outcomes than MMP (no danger of overhang, no threshold, etc.). But only as long as a few sanity checks remain: first, the 2% required to gain a list seat remain as the only threshold to list representation; and second, that the number of list seats increase in proportion to the number of electorate seats (I’d also argue for a different split – 70 electorates and 50 list isn’t reasonable, in my view).

    L

  54. Lew 54

    TimeWarp: You don’t. If a party wins more electorate seats than its proportion of the party vote, it creates an overhang. In your example (61 electorates and 45% of the party vote – 54 seats by right) there would be an overhang of seven seats – a parliament of 127, requiring 64 for a majority. The interaction between party vote and electorate vote creates a sliding scale which provides a check on electorate dominance. It’s a very robust system, designed to minimise the effects of gerrymandering a lot of small electorates in one region (for instance, in polities with strong sectarian or regionalist conflict) to supercede the party vote.

    L

  55. TimeWarp 55

    Cheers.. my understanding was there was a fixed number of electorate seats (50%) then the balance were proportional.

    In contrast to MMP where the total is proportional.

  56. DeeDub 56

    Janet
    November 10, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    “I like STV. We have it in Wellington and narrowly voted to retain it recently after the right tried to get rid of it. It is a fairer voting system and people like John Banks wouldn’t have been elected if Akld City Council used it. But it is not proportional.”

    Hmmmm… and so we get ‘populist’ mayors like Kerry P? Not so sure about your logic here? STV elects political ‘celebrities’ not good politicians IMHO.

  57. Lew 57

    TimeWarp: That’s Asdditional Member Proportional – also called Supplementary Member – as I detailed above. There are good wikipedia pages on all major systems which are used at present – the only one I mentioned which I don’t think is in use anywhere is a transferable-parallel vote system, where electors rank candidates and then rank parties.

    L

  58. TimeWarp 58

    Sweet thanks Lew… I was intimately familiar with all back in 93, Mr Monteith has killed a few brain cells since then.

  59. NeillR 59

    The best way to improve MMP would be removing the threshold.
    What so that every moron who could get a few votes would get into parliament? You think this wouldn’t happen – under your scenario the Bill&Ben Party would have just picked up a seat in the house.

    national is only government now because NZF couldn’t get 0.8% more of the vote and because National voters tactically voted in Epsom.
    Everyone has the option of tactical voting. In fact, Labour stuffed up by trying to win the Maori seats – if they had left them all to the Maori Party there would have been less likelihood of National forming a government. Remember, it also benefited Labour at the last election, where Dunne wouldn’t have been re-elected and Labour may not have got in.

    Also, if NZF had been returned, the result would still have been the same, as Nat/ACT would have had 61 seats (enough to govern) and 62 when UF was taken into account.

  60. Lew 60

    NeillR: No, because people would have voted differently.

    That’s the major effect of electoral systems – influencing voter behaviour. Remove the threshold, people think harder about their votes.

    L

  61. “Scribe
    November 10, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Steve,

    The best way to improve MMP would be removing the threshold. That would remove the undemocratic elements we saw on Saturday – tactical voting, overhangs and large wasted vote.

    Are you saying tactical voting is undemocratic? I must be reading your comment incorrectly, in light of your “Smart Vote’ series, which advocated for tactical voting.”

    He means exactly what he has written and its only you claiming any different.

  62. NeillR 62

    By the by, if eliminating the threshold isn’t an option, maybe tinkering with the idea that winning an electorate seat doesn’t release your party from the threshold.

    It would make the “wasted vote’ worse, but it would seemingly make the NZF vs. ACT situation a bit fairer.

    Jeez, have you people actually stopped to think about what you’re saying. If this scenario played out the result would be:

    National 64
    Labour 47
    Greens 9

    No other party would be in parliament – is that REALLY what you want?

  63. NeillR 63

    NeillR: No, because people would have voted differently.

    That’s the major effect of electoral systems – influencing voter behaviour. Remove the threshold, people think harder about their votes.

    There is absolutely NO evidence to support that whatever. But i can tell you for a fact that if you remove the threshold then you will see the National Front, or some similar extreme organisations suddenly appearing in parliament – i’m sure no-one would like that as a scenario, it was bad enough with Peters and his reprehensible views.

  64. Lew 64

    NeillR: There’s a shitload of evidence, most of it from European nations who’ve had proportional representation systems with no threshold for ages.

    The National Front, although contesting the 2008 NZ election (as the National Alliance with some other nutters) don’t even register on the Electoral Commission’s results page (they exclude parties who receive fewer than six votes per polling place, I believe). They’re irrelevant.

    Once people know their vote (for whatever party) will count, we’ll see people genuinely vote for the party they want representing them. I don’t have a problem with the prospect of the Family Party or the Kiwi Party gaining representation, though I disagree with practically all of their politics. It takes almost twenty thousand votes to get a party over the one-member threshold. That’s a lot of people, and a constituency which deserves representation.

    I think you have too little faith in the parliament to control and constrain the lunatics among its ranks.

    L

  65. Pascal's bookie 65

    “Jeez, have you people actually stopped to think about what you’re saying. If this scenario played out the result would be:

    National 64
    Labour 47
    Greens 9”

    ACT 1
    maori Party 5
    United Future 1
    Jim Anderton’s 1

  66. NeillR 66

    The National Front, although contesting the 2008 NZ election (as the National Alliance with some other nutters) don’t even register on the Electoral Commission’s results page (they exclude parties who receive fewer than six votes per polling place, I believe). They’re irrelevant.
    So you’re trying to argue that everyone will change their vote except for supporters of the National Front (or other quasi-fascist organisations).

    I’m quite happy to challenge your assumptions on the voting tendencies of Europe v NZ, because so far we haven’t made enough progress, nor had enough time-gap from FPP to be that sophisticated with our voting intentions.

    For instance, if Bill&Ben had captured 3% of the vote, parliament would be reduced by one member. It wouldn’t take a genius to set up the “Underhang” Party who had only one member, to campaign on the basis of reducing the number of MP’s. For every vote above 1% they received parliament would be reduced. You reckon the electorate wouldn’t go for that scenario? I’m picking they’d get around 10% of the vote, minimum.

    ACT 1
    maori Party 5
    United Future 1
    Jim Anderton’s 1

    You’re not really keeping up – the scenario was that electorate votes didn’t count – ie: the threshold would still have to be met – none of these parties would get to parliament under that system (based on 2008 results).

  67. bradluen 67

    I’m glad Bill & Ben didn’t beat McGillicuddy Serious’s joke party record (11,714 votes or 0.61% in 1993). Having no policies <<< ending male suffrage.

    Bring on the 2% threshold!

    (Also: the “winning an electorate seat doesn’t release your party from the threshold” is a bit rubbish because making the NZF vs Act imbalance)

  68. bradluen 68

    I hate edit time limits that don’t refresh.

    Anyway, as for the “winning an electorate seat doesn’t release your party from the threshold’:

    Current rules: fair for Act, unfair for NZ First!
    Those rules: unfair for Act, unfair for NZ First!

    Can’t see how this is any more democratic.

    [lprent: It does. But I think that it is a client side java running that. Adds to list of things to check]

  69. Ari 69

    Steve, STV is most definitely proportional. And, when implemented correctly, will provide the smallest margin of wasted votes of any electoral system.

    No Chris, STV is still an electorate-based system and no electorate-based system can ever be truly proportional because there are votes that don’t count across districts. It is, however, probably the second-best system for voting in electorates that I can think of, and it may be that it produces results much closer to proportional elections than FPP. That’s still not the same thing. 🙂

    By the by, if eliminating the threshold isn’t an option, maybe tinkering with the idea that winning an electorate seat doesn’t release your party from the threshold.

    It would make the “wasted vote’ worse, but it would seemingly make the NZF vs. ACT situation a bit fairer.

    So here’s my wishlist for a better MMP:

    * Change the threshold to 0.83%. (winning a list seat outright)
    * It doesn’t matter if electorate MPs bring their buddies in or not under this system- any Party capable of winning a second seat is already past the threshold.
    * A fairer electorate vote system, like STV, (rank candidates, skip any you don’t know) EV, (vote any candidates you wish “up” or “down” with a tick or a cross, skip candidates you don’t know) or Ranged Vote. (vote any candidates you wish between 0 and 100, skip candidates you don’t know)
    * Mandate that parties who want a list larger than 5 MPs run primaries for their party list among their party members, giving interested voters more control over who gets into Parliament. At the moment only the Greens elect their party list. This would also help address concerns that list members are often minnows- at the very least, their own party members would have to like them.

  70. Camryn 70

    Act doesn’t support the MMP referendum, you’ll find. Funnily enough given they would’ve exist without it and were formed into a political party only because and when MMP was introduced.

  71. Felix 71

    NeillR:
    “You’re not really keeping up – the scenario was that electorate votes didn’t count”

    No Neill, the scenario being discussed was that winning an electorate seat wouldn’t make your party votes (even though under the threshold) count which is how it works now.

    For example: Under the current system ACT’s party vote translates into 4 list MPs in the house because Hide won an electorate seat. If he hadn’t won his electorate, those party votes wouldn’t count for ACT as they are below the 5% threshold and Hide’s seat would be the only ACT seat in the house.

    The alternate scenario being discussed is one in which with the same result, Hide would have his seat (which he won) but ACT would still have to meet the 5% threshold before they start bringing list MPs into the house (which they currently do not).

    Please keep up with who’s keeping up.

  72. NeillR 72

    Argh, you’re right – i blame late nights and a failure to read properly. 😛

    The problem with that scenario is that you distort the proportionality of the result. If you applied those figures you would end up with the following:

    National 60
    Labour 45
    Green 9
    Maori 5
    ACT 1
    UF 1
    Prog 1

    It would still result in a National government. I don’t really think the electorate would wear change on the basis of leftist expediency, because they can’t accept a result that wasn’t what they wanted – especially when seats were taken from ACT and given to the Greens and Labour.

  73. Daveski 73

    All that would do is make it almost certain the public would clamour to ditch the Maori seats – five electorate seats for 2+% of the party vote.

    There’s a bit of paradox here in the sense that some of you are arguing to keep MMP but want to change it. If you need to change it then there must be a problem you are trying to address.

  74. Felix 74

    Well we’re never going have a “perfect” system that everyone’s 100% happy with but that doesn’t mean we give up improving it.

    What we have now is a huge improvement on what we had before in terms of representation, fairness and the “wasted vote” issue but lets keep thinking about how to make it better stronger faster.

  75. Lew 75

    NeillR: It wouldn’t take a genius to set up the “Underhang’ Party who had only one member, to campaign on the basis of reducing the number of MP’s. For every vote above 1% they received parliament would be reduced. You reckon the electorate wouldn’t go for that scenario? I’m picking they’d get around 10% of the vote, minimum.

    You can pick what you like, but in fact, this has already been done in NZ – the 99 MP Party contested the 2005 election and received a whopping 601 party votes. In addition, I’m not aware of any such party in any of the (many) proportional systems elsewhere. So, like your last example, an irrelevancy which you’re using to fearmonger in direct opposition to the facts on the ground.

    Regardless of that fact, I’d say if they can get 40,000 people to vote on a platform of `one less MP’ they deserve the (lack of) representation. See, I’m not really afraid of heterodox voices – I think they’re valuable, and easily-enough marginalised by the orthodox players.

    L

  76. Chess Player 76

    Daveski,

    “If you need to change it then there must be a problem you are trying to address.”

    I have spent some time this morning reading this entire blog, and I have to say I think this whole issue is a non-event.

    The issue would not have been raised, I suspect, if the election had returned the encumbents to power, and I can’t see it is in anyone now in govt’s interest to change it either. It’s taken the Nats this long to figure out how to work the system, and also taken this long for the general public to understand how MMP works (if they do, yet).

    There are certainly plenty of ideas (even just in this blog alone) on possible ‘improvements’ but I think we will see this one quietly fade away, as without a strong motivation from those in govt now, the reality is that no-one will make anything happen in a hurry.

  77. Daveski 77

    CP

    Indeed I almost mentioned the fact that as each election goes on, MMP increasingly becomes the status quo (compared to those who grew up with FPP).

    I suspect Key has surprised both the left and the right with the nous he has shown in managing the MMP environment.

    However, fundamentally, if the public wants change, the politicians must listen.

  78. NeillR 78

    You can pick what you like, but in fact, this has already been done in NZ – the 99 MP Party contested the 2005 election and received a whopping 601 party votes. In addition, I’m not aware of any such party in any of the (many) proportional systems elsewhere. So, like your last example, an irrelevancy which you’re using to fearmonger in direct opposition to the facts on the ground.

    The Bill&Ben Party were exactly that – because there was only two candidates on their list any vote that entitled them to a third or more seat would have seen that number of seats removed from parliament. I’m sure if that was more widely publicised beforehand it may well have led to a higher vote for them.

    But, given the widespread public support for a reduction to 99 MP’s, it wouldn’t take long for a party based on that reduction to get off the ground. However, the point you appear to be missing is that the threshold was put in for a reason – to stop one-issue crackpots from hijacking the political process. Under some of the scenarios proposed here, they would have a field day.

  79. lew 79

    NeillR: The Bill&Ben Party were exactly that – because there was only two candidates on their list any vote that entitled them to a third or more seat would have seen that number of seats removed from parliament.

    Bollocks. The Bill & Ben party wasn’t about constitutional or electoral change – it was an advertising stunt for a TV show (which worked very well indeed). It was a lark. Just because the result of a strong electoral showing would have resulted in an underhang doesn’t mean it was intended as an underhang party.

    I’m sure if that was more widely publicised beforehand it may well have led to a higher vote for them.

    But, given the widespread public support for a reduction to 99 MP’s, it wouldn’t take long for a party based on that reduction to get off the ground.

    If there’s such widespread support for there being 99 MPs, why did the 99 MP Party only garner 0.03% of the vote in 2005, and not even bother to contest 2008? And why do such parties not exist elsewhere? And you still haven’t explained to me why 40,000 people (that’s roughly the minimum to have an underhang seat) shouldn’t be entitled to reduce the size of parliament by one MP if they choose.

    However, the point you appear to be missing is that the threshold was put in for a reason – to stop one-issue crackpots from hijacking the political process. Under some of the scenarios proposed here, they would have a field day.

    Do you actually read the other comments in the thread? I’ve addressed this argument above. The 5% threshold was implemented in postwar Germany to prevent the rise of initially-marginal populist demagogues. It was a specific response to the history of that country, and I think a wise one in that case – but not strictly applicable everywhere. We don’t have anything like the combination of factors which Germany had, making us vulnerable to the country being hijacked by extremists – hell, 45% of the party vote is described as a `slaughter’ or a `landslide’.

    Neill, from this discussion and the discussion about `moral mandates’ it seems to me that you’re impervious to logic and argument which doesn’t suit your preconceptions. You seem willing to take on examples from elsewhere when it suits you (5% threshold from Germany) but not when it doesn’t (there are no underhang parties anywhere in the MMP systems without a threshold). You’re also accepting correlation as causation (Bill & Ben Party is an underhang party because it could have caused an underhang) but only in some cases. Finally, you attribute unrealistically high influence to things which suit your argument, in contradiction of the actual facts of a matter (National Front gaining power; 99 MP Party having actual support).

    It’s a shame, because you seem to actually think about these things. It’d be nice to have a discussion when we’re both on the same planet.

    L

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