MMP rules, FPP/SM drools

Written By: - Date published: 12:32 pm, June 29th, 2011 - 49 comments
Categories: elections, First Past the Post, MMP, referendum, Supplementary Member - Tags:

A commenter, MarkM, accused me, and the Left more broadly, yesterday of not wanting to engage in any intellectual debate on the merits of MMP vs the other systems on offer. Not true! It’s just we have been through this already and MMP won because it’s the best system.

The people behind the ‘Vote for Change’ campaign (Peter Shirtcliffe) don’t have an intellectual, principled objection to MMP. They just hate that it stops a small minority capturing one or both of the major parties and engaging in Blitzkrieg reforms like he and his cronies did in the 80s and 90s.

But if you’re looking for an intellectual argument for MMP. Here’s one, just one, of the many.

Principle: governments should only govern with the support of the people, which, in practice, means the support of the majority of the people.

In the inverse: it is immoral for a government to rule when most people oppose it.

Agreed? OK. Let’s test FPP vs MMP to that standard.

Definition: I counted terms of Parliament were the parties voting for the Government on confidence and supply votes had won more than 50% of the the vote, combined.

Times that the Government had the support of the majority of voters under FPP from formation of Reform (beginning on multi-party system) in 1911: 7 out of 27 (26%)

Times that the Government has had the support of the majority of voters under MMP: 4 out of 5 (80%)

All of the FPP examples were between 1928 and 1951. The exception to the rule for MMP was 1996 when National plus NZF equaled 47.2% of votes cast, but had a majority of seats due to the high (by MMP standards) wasted vote.

So, if you believe that democracy means governments should govern with the consent of the (majority of the) people, MMP is the system for you. If you believe in governments ruling with as little as 35% of the vote, a la National 1993, then you want FPP, or its bastard cousin SM.

49 comments on “MMP rules, FPP/SM drools”

  1. Portion Control 1

    In the inverse: it is immoral for a government to rule when most people oppose it.

    How do you know if most people oppose it? That is a subjective view and MMP doesn’t produce results that most people necessarily are in favour of. Ask NZ First voters in 1996 if they supported going into coalition with National. Ask Green voters in 2005 if they supported a Labour government backed up by a NZ first partner rather than a green partner? Ask Maori voters in 2008 if they supported going with National or staying on the cross benches?

    The point is you don’t know, because you’ve assumed that if Person A supports Party X, then they must oppose Party Y, even though voting history shows that most people’s views aren’t that entrenched. There are a number of parties they might be comfortable with, and a number of parties they are uncomfortable with. MMP puts all the power of deciding which other parties form a government into the hands of the political leadership.

    There are lots of arguments for and against MMP and it’s good to have a debate rather than just shouting down your opponents because they want to debate it.

    • SMSD 1.1

      How is it subjective to say that people who voted for a party in government support that government? Sounds like a logical conclusion to me.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      How do you know if most people oppose it?

      Oh, that’s really easy. They didn’t vote for it.

      You’re only real example there is NZ1st in 1996 going with National and that was because NZ1st had indicated, although not outright said, that they would go with Labour. In fact, that was the only reason NZ1st got such a high vote. You’ll note that that government actually collapsed half-way through as well. It was not popular.

      MMP puts all the power of deciding which other parties form a government into the hands of the political leadership.

      Only if the party is dictatorial else it would be up to the party membership through voting and that decision would be made clear to the electorate prior to the election. And then there’s the fact that some parties just don’t gel at all and people are quite capable of recognising those incompatibilities. Think about it, if it was only to get enough MPs to govern we’d always end up with a National/Labour coalition. If National/Labour said that they were going to form a coalition after the election the chances are neither would get into parliament.

      So, yeah, they didn’t vote for it is actually very accurate although there’s a hell of a lot more to it than just the marks on a bit of paper.

      • Portion Control 1.2.1

        Oh, that’s really easy. They didn’t vote for it.

        Read my post again moron. Not everybody is as entrenched or as partisan as you. Elections are won or lost on the middle ground swinging between labour and national. Most swinging voters by definition don’t “oppose” National or Labour. They have a preference one way or another. They are generally happy with National or Labour in government, but generally unhappy with the extremes of the Greens or Act holding too much influence.

        One of the criticisms of MMP is that small parties have a disproportionate influence over deciding government and the policies of government. Do you think helen and Michael bent over to defend Winston when he was so corrupt as a matter of principle? Not likely. They were happy to whore themselves and their ideals to to stay in government.

        • KJT 1.2.1.1

          What a load of rubbish. Most people vote for however they think may possibly do less harm in the next three years as the choice is really between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

          Also explains the lack of interest in politics in NZ. The public know they have no real power.

          As No Right turn said. “Our only way of getting rid of the lot we do not like this time is to vote in the lot we did not like last time”.

        • felix 1.2.1.2

          Actually elections aren’t “won or lost on the middle ground swinging between labour and national” in reality. This is a statistical interpretation, sort of a cartoon version to describe elections to idiots.

          In reality elections are won and lost by all voters equally. Take any of them out and the result changes. No?

          You’re buying into (or trying to sell) the bullshit analysis that treats the electorate as a single entity, an animal with a defined position or opinion on anything.

          It leads to people thinking, for example, that the electorate sends messages about the make-up of the government it wants. You hear it a lot in political analysis these days, phrases like “the people are still in favour of pursuing direction (x) but clearly want the pace tempered by (y).

          Which is bullshit. In reality some people want (x) and some want (y). And others want (a), (b) & (c).

    • felix 1.3

      Contortion Patrol comes out strongly against elections.

      Good to get that on the table from the outset.

      • Portion Control 1.3.1

        No I didn’t you liar. Get a rib removed and see what else you can suck on.

        [lprent: that is on the bounds of a pointless insult. Had to look at felix’s comment to see what it is about. ]

        • felix 1.3.1.1

          Yeah you did.

          Elections are what we use to find out which parties and individuals have the support of the majority. We do it by counting the votes.

          And counting the votes trumps all your waffle about the possible motivations of various groups of voters to support or not support this or that (which is pure speculation on your part).

    • Blighty 1.4

      the entire premise of representative democracy is that, at the last election, the MP or party had the support of the people who voted for them, who preferred them over all the other options. That people might later change their minds is only an issue for the next election.

      • Portion Control 1.4.1

        Yes but there are limits on that blighty even under MMP. Bill and Ben aren’t represented in Parliament. We have 5% threshholds. Many parties and individuals get votes but systematically not enough to get in.

        FPP, SM, MMP, STV are all forms of representative democracy. They have different features and different tendencies to produce different forms of government. To say that the only democratic system, or the only truly representative form of democracy when only four other countries in the world have MMP is just stupid.

        • Blighty 1.4.1.1

          not every country in the world is as lucky as this one.

          We had the opportunity to choose systems from 5 options over 2 referendums and we chose the best, despite the millions that Shirtcliffe spent trying to buy a result. All the polls suggest we’ll choose that same system later this year after 15 years experience.

    • Bazar 1.5

      “That is a subjective view and MMP doesn’t produce results that most people necessarily are in favour of.”

      Such is government. This is doubly true when your party has to make a compromise to have any real power.

      FPP might have been democratic, but only for the minority. The majority generally had to comply with the rule of a minority with no say.

      “Ask Green voters in 2005 if they supported a Labour government backed up by a NZ first partner rather than a green partner? Ask Maori voters in 2008 if they supported going with National or staying on the cross benches?”

      And thats people trying to game the election system and being caught out.
      You vote for the party that best represents your views, not your side. If NZ ever develops into a two party voting system like America is, I’ll be greatly disappointed.
      It’s not Left vs Right, or Red vs Blue. It’s all about representation. But try telling that to Americans, hell i still can’t tell the practical difference between republicans or democrats.

      The Maori party swapping it’s from labour to national is what i consider a success of the MMP system. That small party (even if i do consider it racist) managed to get itself heard, rather than bleating with the opposition unable to do anything but bleat.

      I’m sure there are a lot of Maori party voters upset over that, but they are just idiots. You vote for the party, not the side. If the Maori party could get progress towards its party goals by siding with national, they should.

      People who voted act managed to get harsher sentences handed down (as stupid as that may end up being) with it being a minority that would have been overlooked.

      Those compromises by the MMP system give a fairer system, where each vote is more likely to count. As for how much it can hurt the efficiency of the ruling party is another matter.
      Personally i like the MMP system, but there are ways to improve it. FPP isn’t something I’d vote for, but I’d like some of the other systems.

      PS: So i’m somewhat disappointed to see this post only compares MMP with the most primitive voting system… Hopefully there’ll be more robust debate on the other voting systems in the weeks to come.

  2. Frank Macskasy 2

    MarkM should’ve been around in 1993 when the great FPP/MMP debate took place. There was plenty of debate and quite a bit of bovine excrement – the latter usually from the so-called ‘Campaign for Better Government’, In fact, at least one of the many TV ads was ruled as unacceptable by the BSA.

    If MarkM wants to debate the issues seriously, I’m up for it.

  3. randal 3

    these geeks just make up stuff that sounds logical and valid but when the conclusions are examined for validity then they are found to be false.
    like the tax free week and many other shibboleths beloved by the right wing its all crap and specious twisting of the language to try and make ordinary people believe what are at base unfounded lies.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    You are arguing a false dichotomy. There are plenty of other systems of representation besides MMP and FFP (and its bastard child SM as you put it).

    • Blighty 4.1

      the only other one on the table is STV.

      Are you arguing for it? If so, make the case.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      There are plenty of systems – MMP is the best of all of them. Throw in STV for the electorate vote and it would be even better.

      • Colonial Viper 4.2.1

        An STV where you only rank your top 3 choices please.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.2.1.1

          And if you don’t rank them the vote is discounted – stops it being turned back into an FPP election.

    • bbfloyd 4.3

      while you’re busy wasting our time with pitiful attempts at critisism, you could have been compiling a list of said systems for perusal and consideration. then, possibly, a constructive debate could have ensued.

      too bad you chose to be a time waster instead

  5. All of the FPP examples were between 1928 and 1951. The exception to the rule for MMP was 1996 when National plus NZF equaled 47.2% of votes cast, but had a majority of seats due to the high (by MMP standards) wasted vote.

    Didn’t they also have support on confidence and supply from ACT as well?

    (Dammit, can’t get a 1996 Hansard to check)

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Yep, would have had to have been a National, Act, NZ1st arrangement. The Labour led option would have been Labour, Alliance, NZ1st.

    • Blighty 5.2

      Wikipedia’s page on ACT says “It remained outside the National-New Zealand First coalition government, although sometimes gave it support.”

      Not sure if they voted for it on confidence and supply, but formal confidence and supply agreements were invented by the Fifth Labour Government. Before that, I think the assumption was any party supporting a government would be in coalition with the government and have ministerial seats.

    • KJT 5.3

      AND NZF never got the same proportion of votes again because they were punished by the Electorate for supporting NACT.

      For the same reason as the Maori party is hemorrhaging votes. Supporting a Government against the obvious wishes of most of their previous supporters. Given that a large number party voted Labour.

      • Colonial Viper 5.3.1

        It’s so easy for the leaders of minority parties to rationalise themselves into accepting the baubles and poisoned chalices of office.

  6. A commenter, MarkM, accused me, and the Left more broadly, yesterday of not wanting to engage in any intellectual debate on the merits of MMP vs the other systems on offer.
     
    I suspect Eddie we are going to see this more and more.  Historically the right have been attacked by the left because they tend not to analyse and oppose on prejudice rather than principle.
     
    Recently I have seen RWNJs come out with this meme where they say that the left is afraid/does not want to debate the merits.  The slithery one has been doing it a lot lately.  I always laugh when he claims some sort of feigned victimhood. An example is in the comments at http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2011/06/28/lusk-and-williams-out-themselves/#comments where there is a full on attempt to avoid debating who is paying what to do stuff to our democracy.
     
    It goes along with their other meme that the left attack the person.  They (RWNJs) are attempting to paint themselves as victims.
     
    The reality is different but they are looking for a weapon to wield, not to work out reality.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Further, asking for evidence or debate is a play to slow down and distract the Left. It makes the conversation difficult for lay citizens to follow too.

      It is a tactic that appeals to the Left’s academic/intellectual side, and as you go about debating and arguing, the Righties are quietly grinning away watching the timer run down.

      Fact of the matter is it is long past time for trying to convince/convert/rescue/save the Right Wing, its a waste of time and effort.

      What the Left need to do is to connect with its base, listen to them and turn them out.

      • felix 6.1.1

        “It is a tactic that appeals to the Left’s academic/intellectual side, and as you go about debating and arguing, the Righties are quietly grinning away watching the timer run down.”

        This.

    • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 6.2

      “It goes along with their other meme that the left attack the person. They (RWNJs)…”

      I am so glad the Left is above attacking the person.

      Now, remind me what RWNJ stands for, will you?

      • mickysavage 6.2.1

        Thanks Gormless fool and I agree my comments were an attack on rwnjs which I believe is justified but which they will be affronted about and I was not addressing the merits of the argument.
         
        From now on I will do my best to address the merits only and not get stuck into the personalities.
         
        Promise …
         
        Really I will …

        EDIT: And my calling you “Gormless fool” was only because that is part of your name …

    • MarkM 6.3

      Eddie at least put up some arguments which is all I asked for and it is appreciated
      You as a trained Lawyer simply prove my point.
      Hiding behind a pseudonym and painting everyone who dosent agree with your views as a RWNJ. isnt a debate

      You fail to realise that attacking the opponent not their argument turns people off .

      If MMP is the best system it will stand or fall on its merits not the side who has the best abuse lines

      [lprent: the psuedonym argument is unacceptable. Continuing to use it will result in me banning your pseudonym.

      It is the silliest of arguments, typically used by those whose arguments are so weak that they have to resort to being juvenile dorks and attacking the person and not the argument. ]

      • bbfloyd 6.3.1

        mark,, are you talking to your mirror? the only people i seeregularly using personal attacks as standard debating technique are the rwnj’s that regularly come on here and continue spewing their nonsensical invective as if they had never logged of kiwiblog.

        look up hypocrisy in the first dictionary you can find(and don’t break into a school to get it).

        understand one thing… those who are being catagorised as “left” are the ones attempting to have a rational debate on a fundamental issue. the people who are using namecalling and abuse are, in the main, the ones pushing the national party lines…. if you disagree, then i would be gratified to hear a rational proposal as to why we should contemplate such a shift… otherwise, you run the risk of making yourself, and the ilk you belong to utterly irrelevant to the natural processes of evolutionary developement.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    Despite the fact I would like to see debate, I personally would probably be happy with MMP with a few changes.

    One change I would like to see would be for coalitions to be declared before the election and coalition policies presented during the election campaign. That way voters know what they are going to get beforehand rather than finding out afterwards to their disgust.

  8. Reality Bytes 8

    I would like to see a version 2.1 of MMP enacted where:

    a. The “win a seat and bring your mates rule” is abolished.

    b. The percentage of votes required to get proportionally represented seats is proportional to that of a getting a single seat, not some arbitrary 5% threshold. We have 120 MPs in our parliament.

    So why not make it 0.83% of party votes equals 1 seat. instead of this undemocratic 5% threshold bs. Get out of this provincial bs attitude, we are all kiwis, we should all have an equal chance to make our opintion/vote count on a national level. Pure MMP ftw.

    Something to think about !

    • Mbossa 8.1

      If I’m not mistaken, doing (b) would do (a) by default. There’d be no need for a “bring your mates” rule if there’s no threshold to cross.

      The only reason we will never ever (well, not in the near future anyway) see the threshold abolished is because both Labour and National are terrified of the prospect of ALCP gaining a seat.

    • felix 8.2

      The threshold is the single worst aspect of our current version of MMP.

      It has no function other than to silence minority voices.

      Begone with it.

      • Bored 8.2.1

        Too true, I think even RWNJ parties that attract 1% of the vote should be able to have a representative in parliament…..isnt that called ACT?

  9. DS 9

    Ah, yes. The bizarre elections that FPP threw up.

    1993: National gets 35%, Labour 34%, Alliance 18%, NZ First 8%. Produces majority National Government (just. After special votes: it was a hung parliament on election night).

    1990: National gets 48% of the vote, but over 2/3 the number of seats. Under MMP, 1990 would have been a hung parliament.

    1981: Labour gets more votes, but loses the election. Social Credit get 20% … and 2 seats.

    1978: Labour gets more votes, but loses the election.

    1957: Labour outpoll National 48%-44%, but only have a two seat majority.

    1954: Labour comes within a thousand votes of National across the entire country, but National gets a comfortable majority.

  10. DS 10

    Oh, and the two precedents of the “biggest party not forming government”:

    1928: Reform gets 34.8%, United gets 29.8%, both get 27 seats. Labour (26% and 19 seats) backs United.

    1911: Reform gets four more seats than the Liberals. The Liberals govern with support from independents (until brought down by a no-confidence vote in 1912).

    • swordfish 10.1

      Excellent research, DS !!!

      I was going to do the same thing myself (having studied 20C NZ history – with a particular focus on Elections/Political Parties at Uni). You’ve saved me the trouble !

  11. vidiot 11

    Change the mix.

    120 MP’s (maximum), made up of 70 Electorate & 50 MMP seats.
    * Reduce 5% threshold to 2%, each 2% of the vote, get’s you 1 MMP seat. If you get 51.9% of the vote, you only get 25 MMP seats.
    * 70 General Electorate Seats, remove the Maori specific seats.

  12. jco 12

    Why not a “true” democracy – such as that in Switzerland. Or, it used to be. Everyone votes on everything and you don’t have someone voting for you. My representative rarely votes the way that I would vote but he votes the way I would vote more than the other representatives. So, he votes my way 44% of the time and the the others vote my way 40% of the time or less. Why can’t I vote for things myself??? We are not a democracy, we’re a republic; we elect someone else to represent us. Personally, I would like to immigrate to Switzerland but I’m a bit old to uproot my family and move to a foreign where we don’t even speak the language.

    SDG
    jco

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