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On moral mandates

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, October 26th, 2008 - 67 comments
Categories: election 2008, john key, labour, maori party, national, spin - Tags:

So, let me get this straight. The Right says that the minor parties have to support a National-led government if National gets more votes than Labour. Even if a National government would go against everything a party stands for, even if it is a complete betrayal of the people who voted for them, minor parties are meant to kneel before Key if his party gets the most votes. What dream world are these people living in?

The Herald reckons only a government including the largest party would have ‘legitimacy’. Key says the Maori Party and other small parties would have a “moral mandate” to make him PM if National gets more votes than Labour. Morality eh? That’s an interesting one. After all, they say that you know you’re winning when your opponents start whining ‘no fair’.

Where does this supposed moral mandate arise from? The opinions of people who voted for another party, even if that overrides the wishes of their own supporters?

Would the Maori Party, United Future, and the Greens be ‘morally obligated’ to back National if it won 2 more votes than Labour? Or does this moral maxim only kick in at 20 votes? or 200? or 2000? or 20,000? or 200,000?

Did this moral absolute apply when it was National with fewer votes in 2005? I’m trying to remember the Herald and John Key saying that Labour would have to govern, that Brash shouldn’t even try to form a coalition and, if he did, it would be illegitimate. Maybe my memory is getting rusty.

Did this same moral mandate exist when Labour won more votes but fewer seats in 1978 and 1981? Did National let Labour govern owing to its clear moral mandate? Maybe some of our older readers can inform us.

Or let’s take a theoretical example. What if we had situation where one wing was split between two middling parties,(say, Labour and the Greens or National and ACT), each polling around 25%, and the other wing had one party polling 40%. Would the wing with only one major party get to rule every time simply because its votes were consolidated in one major party?

Hmmm, this morality thing turns out to be a bit complicated, eh? What seems to be a highly principled statement (to borrow a phrase from Bill English) often turns out to be just self-serving drivel.

The fact is the Government is the party or group of parties that has the confidence of the House. It is the party or coalition that has the mandate of the most voters to govern that ought to govern. There is absolutely no reason why that should need to include the largest party.

The Right is just scared because an LGP+M government is looking ever more likely. Well, Key and the Herald can cry all they want, the fact remains: the legitimate and moral government is the one constituting the largest alliance of parties, whether or not it includes the single largest party.

67 comments on “On moral mandates”

  1. Dan 1

    Steve,
    The Right are chosey when they apply the morality argument. Our mate Burt on Farrar’s blog, in defending National’s reluctance to pay GST last election, writes:

    You may have forgotten, the GST couldn?t be repaid because National would have needed to break the law to repay it. Labour didn?t think making a law change retrospective for 1 year to enable that was OK. Instead they canceled the Darnton VS Clark court case, validated their own illegal spending over a period of 14 years and told us to move on. It seem you took the ?move on? message on board a little too literally.

    High legal ground but the morality stinks especially when the hypocrites take Winston and Labour to task for their respective interpretations of the law.

    MMP is here because the Nats won so many minority elections under FPP. The irony is wonderful.

    The other point which they fail to acknowledge is on election day, they may not have the majority any more. Remember it was not that long ago that English delivered 24%, which is closer to where they deserve to be considering their lack of firm commitments this time.

  2. Tim Ellis 2

    The Right is just scared because an LGP+M government is looking ever more likely.

    No it isn’t.

    Several commentators on the Left are encouraging a scenario whereby the overhang is maximised (Progressive voters giving party votes to Labour, Maori Party giving party votes to Labour or Greens, goodness, I wonder who has made those calls recently?). What is the purpose of this? Oh, that’s right, it’s to improve the possibility that even if the Right get the majority of votes, the will of the majority can be suppressed through a strategic manipulation of the overhang.

    If the Left get a majority of the votes, then you’re welcome to form a Government. If the Left manipulate an overhang so that they can form a government with a minority of party votes, then go ahead and try it. It will be the death knell to MMP.

  3. theodoresteel 3

    Of course the “block”, not the party with the biggest share of the vote has the moral mandate to govern. This statement by JK is just a threat to the minor parties.

    If one block wins a majority but the, say, Maori party has an overhang, maybe then morals kick in to go with whichever block has the majority. Because that’s when things could get messy with proportionality and actual party vote support for a particular “block” converting into seats in Parliament. Similar (but not identical) to the Nat “majorities” under FPP.

  4. randal 4

    the over arching feature of this election has been National and its adherents telling other people what to do. wherever you look there is someone from the gnats saying you must do or you should do this or that. why dont they just say ‘we are going to do this or that and let the people decide. behind every statement they make is the whiff of a strong arm and the disappointment that they cant actually use it.

  5. National has never really understood that a majority of voters don’t vote for them and don’t want them as their government. They hate MMP because it makes that majority who don’t vote for them a tangible reality they can’t ignore.

    If a majority of voters elect MPs from a set of parties who share enough common values that National is on its own…..then that’s just how voters roll.

    National should try to get its head around democracy. Seriously. All the evidence to date says they not only don’t get it, but they can’t do simple arithmetic. Forty-five per cent isn’t a majority……

    I don’t want people with such obvious and potentially serious perceptual dysfunction running the country.

  6. Ianmac 6

    It may have already been said but the Governor general does not seek out the party with the biggest share of the votes. After the election the parties negotiate and when a “coalition” has the required number **then** they go to the GG and ask to form the Govt. It therefore follows that whether the coalition is made up of 2 parties or 10 parties they have the majority and the remainder must have the minority. Simple.
    There has been plenty of informed info on Public Address.

  7. Shonkey 7

    I’ve always wondered about the moral authority of a guy who uses two dead former co-workers to make a point. In the 2003 debate on the border security bill, John Key told Parliament that on September 11, 2001:

    my boss, Michael Packer, died. He was giving a speech on the 108th floor, at Windows on the World. He perished with another two employees from Merrill Lynch, both of whom worked for me and whom I had recruited from the private sector.

    In September 2001, Packer probably was the Australian-domciled Key’s boss in e-commerce, but I highly doubt Key had anything to do with the other two guys.

    One of the Merrill Lynch trio who were killed that day was 26-year-old Robert McIlvaine, hired in July 2001 for a New York-based communications job (Key’s already in Australia remember); the other was David Brady, a 16-year veteran at Merrill and a New York based private client advisor who looked after 150 wealthy families. Not likely to have been hired by Key who had, in 1985, barely made his first forex trade.

  8. dave 8

    So, let me get this straight. The Right says that the minor parties have to support a National-led government if National gets more votes than Labour.

    No, thats not correct – thats a dumb thing to say – and its not correct even if they get more seats, either. Can you imagine the Progressives supporting National, or Act supporting Labour?

  9. dave 9

    National has never really understood that a majority of voters don’t vote for them and don’t want them as their government

    A majority of voters DO want them as their govt, even if a majority of voters dont vote National. I wont bore you with an explaination, you can work that out for yourself. In any case a Majority of voters dont vote for Labour NOR want Labour to be the government according to current polling – even if Clark is preferred PM.

    Did this same moral mandate exist when Labour won more votes but fewer seats in 1978 and 1981?

    The number of seats is more important in FPP than MMP because we elect a Govt. Many people still think we vote for a government, but it is parliament that chooses the Government now. We just pick who gets to choose. Never forget that we adopted MMP in the first place because we weren’t happy that the party with the most votes was not necessarily the Government.

    What the right is saying, I think, is that if the second highest party in Parliament were to be come the Govt, that the parliament would be democratic, but the government would not because it is not the will of the people purely because most people expect the biggest party to be the govt, not the biggest left/right group.

    In fact most expect the biggest left/right group to be in govt. Steve obviously doesnt think that is necessary if the right get more then the left but the Maori Party ( not part of the left/ right)) goes with Labour

    That’s all. I’m not saying I think that, just offering the comment.

  10. dave 10

    not the biggest left/right group Not JUST the biggest left/right group….

  11. paw prick 11

    Steve.
    The fact is more New Zealanders want a nat goverment than want a Labour one
    more New zealanders want a nat government than want a green govt
    more New Zealanders want a nat govt than want a NZ first govt
    The the views of the majorty should be respected! its called Democracy!

  12. Bill 12

    It’s not complicated.

    In an election based around personality, Key might have had a point.

    In an election based around policy he is being stupid with his assertion.

    Or then, as the ‘free marketeers’ demand heavy handed state involvement these days, he just might have a point again. A rather Stalinist one, but a point nonetheless. Strange days.

  13. RedLogix 13

    pp,

    Ah yes. Why not come out and say it straight… you really want to revert to FPP so that the Nats have a chance of winning from time to time.

    And this is one of the reasons why:

    http://08wire.org/2008/08/04/first-past-the-post-biased-towards-national/

    In a nutshell FPP is an inherently unfair system, giving about a 1.3% advantage to conservative parties. Given that many election results have the biggest voting blocks within within a few percent of each other, that is a pretty significant bias.

  14. paw prick 14

    Rexlogix

    What I want is for the party who gets the most votes to govern.Simple!
    under MMP we have minor parties in a position to decide who governs with only 5% support! and even worse minor partys whose mandate is one of race being kingmaker!
    FPP is not ideal but MMP has to revised in some way to restore democracy!

  15. dave 15

    What I want is for the party who gets the most votes to govern

    Steve, can you please elaborate as to why you disagree with this statement if Labour was to get the most votes and seats but a minor party was subsequently to govern with National?

  16. r0b 16

    If the Left get a majority of the votes, then you’re welcome to form a Government.

    Thanks Tim, but I don’t think we need your permission.

    If the Left manipulate an overhang so that they can form a government with a minority of party votes, then go ahead and try it. It will be the death knell to MMP.

    Woah – tough guy!

    National have been the beneficiaries of quirks in the electoral system more than once. If they are on the losing side of a quirk this time then I for one will not shed any tears. The people make the rules, the people vote under the rules, the outcome under the rules will reflect the will of the people.

    All this National crying about the smaller party forming the government didn’t stop them from desperately trying to do it at the last election…

  17. Tim Ellis 17

    The people make the rules, the people vote under the rules, the outcome under the rules will reflect the will of the people.

    Well, thank you for your permission on what the will of the people will do r0b. See, we can both play the smarmy crap game on a Sunday morning, r0b, but it isn’t constructive, is it?

    National have been the beneficiaries of quirks in the electoral system more than once. If they are on the losing side of a quirk this time then I for one will not shed any tears.

    Really? National have been a beneficiary of the quirks of MMP? When? MMP was a system designed to give proportional support in Parliament so that governments would represent a majority of voters. FPP was never intended to deliver that outcome. We are not talking about a “quirk”. We are talking about a deliberate attempt by some on the Left to exploit a systematic design flaw in the system so that the will of the majority party vote is suppressed.

    All this National crying about the smaller party forming the government didn’t stop them from desperately trying to do it at the last election

    Nonsense. I haven’t seen National crying about the smaller party forming a government. If Labour, the Greens, Progressives, New Zealand First and the Maori Party together represent more party votes than National, Act and United Future, then nobody in National will have a right to cry about it. And I don’t remember Don Brash being desperate to form a Government after the last election. I do remember him saying on election night in 2005 that National hadn’t done enough to form a government, but that he would have discussions with other party leaders. That wasn’t desperation.

  18. randal 18

    paw prix has a poor understanding of both democracy and the parliamentary process and seems to be just the point man for a national party blag on how they think democracy should work.
    national brought in mmp
    but
    they cant make it work
    the question is can they make anything work and so far the answer is no

  19. RedLogix 19

    This really is an absurd discussion. As r0b correctly points out National had fewer votes than Labour in 2005 and this did not deter them from entering into discussions with other minor parties in order to try and form a government. I do not recall any silly nonsense from the left about Labour having a “moral right” to form the government just because they had the most seats.

    National had every right to make an attempt to form a government in 2005. I would have been surprised if they had not entered into coalition negotiations. And if the attempt had been successful then they would have had every right to form a government.

    As for pp’s soundbite slogan ” democracy = govt by the party with the most votes” is nothing more than a fig leaf for FPP. And we have been there, done that… and didn’t like it.

    Tim

    Nonsense. I haven’t seen National crying about the smaller party forming a government.

    Well pp is not equal to National…. but he is sure making a fuss all the same.

  20. r0b 20

    See, we can both play the smarmy crap game on a Sunday morning

    Ummmm – what? Maybe you should switch to decaf Tim, you seem a little tense.

    Really? National have been a beneficiary of the quirks of MMP? When?

    I said “the electoral system” Tim, not “MMP”. Notably in 1978 and 1981 when Labour won more votes than National but was not able to form the government.

    And I don’t remember Don Brash being desperate to form a Government after the last election. I do remember him saying on election night in 2005 that National hadn’t done enough to form a government, but that he would have discussions with other party leaders. That wasn’t desperation.

    No no, of course not. Having fought a desperate, unethical and bitter campaign, narrowly lost due to being caught out in his lies, Don wasn’t a bit desperate to try and cobble together a coalition after the last election. Not even a teeny bit, I see that now. But his non desperate attempts to from a government in 2005 show that National has no qualms at all about the smaller party forming a government – as long as it is them. Makes the campaign they are running now rather self evidently self serving don’t you think?

    Anyway, cheerio, stuff to do in the real world.

  21. RedLogix 21

    Tim,

    MMP was really only a compromise choice. With only a single legislative house, and no independent executive authority, the FPP system really delivered ‘one party state’ rule.. And after the debacles of the Muldoon, Lange and early Bolger governments, in which a handful of wrong-headed individuals were able to hijack the entire political agenda, NZ was very ready for a better system.

    The choices were really between MMP and STV. STV was technically the better system, but there were very few international precedents of it being used at a national level. In the end we went with MMP mainly because it represented the change from FPP that was most achievable, rather than the best possible.

  22. r0b 22

    PS – final quick thought on my way out the door.

    Since the Greens have already declared that they can only work with Labour after the election, Green voters know exactly what they are voting for – a Labour led government.

    The explicit vote for a Labour led government is Labour + Greens, that is the total that can be compared to the explicit vote for National.

  23. Tim Ellis 23

    r0b said:

    National has no qualms at all about the smaller party forming a government – as long as it is them. Makes the campaign they are running now rather self evidently self serving don’t you think?

    No, that doesn’t make the campaign they are running now self-serving. National has never said that the groups of parties represented in Parliament that command the majority of party votes should not form the government. Straw man r0b. If the LPG gets more votes than NUFACT, then good luck to them.

    RedLogix said:

    MMP was really only a compromise choice. With only a single legislative house, and no independent executive authority, the FPP system really delivered ‘one party state’ rule..

    I’d say that’s reasonable point, RedLogix. Every system is a compromise choice. The recommendation of the Royal Commission on the electoral system was that the retention of the Maori seats was not necessary to ensure Maori representation. It is the existence of the Maori seats that exacerbates the likelihood of the overhang.

    Examples in other MMP systems show that the existence of the overhang is rare, and isn’t a feature in determining governments. Some commentators on the Left maximise the overhang and exploit it to potentially defeat the will of the majority of voters.

  24. Lew 24

    Steve, you’re way behind on this one. A few of us have already had this argument over here. Please excuse me if I plagiarise my arguments there.

    There’s a lot of basic political theory missing in action here, so I’m putting my schoolin’ hat on.The majority of these `moral mandate’ arguments arise from the following fallacies:


    1. We use a system of uncodified morality to determine who governs.
    2. a coalition government with one large and several small parties is the same as a single-party government.
    3. People vote against parties, not for a party.
    4. Governments are non-exclusive.

    All four of these are complete bollocks. Allow me to deal with them in turn. All I’m essentially doing is arguing a case for democracy being pursued by recourse to rule of law and mathematics.

    1. We don’t use a system of uncodified morality to determine who forms a government; we use a system of codified law. This is one of the defining features which makes democracy superior to executive monarchy, dictatorship or any of the other systems we’d no doubt all agree are inferior. The transparency of the rule of law means everyone, knowing how the system operates, are well-placed to tune their electoral behaviour to suit. In NZ, the rules governing government formation (once an election has been held) are contained in the Cabinet Manual, here. Sometimes strict adherence to law produces bizarre results, but if you want rule of law, you have to live with its failings as well as its more frequent successes. On this basis I spend a lot of time defending the result of the 2000 US Presidential election, even though I dislike the result, on the grounds that the decision to halt the Florida recount was made by those constitutionally authorised to do so, acting on their properly-delegated authority. Yes, the Supreme Court may have been stacked – but it was stacked legitimately in law. This is a case for electoral reform, not a case for changing the result of the election.

    Another point is salient: even under MMP, the party or bloc of parties with the most party votes does not govern by right. The party or parties with the largest number of seats in parliament governs by right. The overhang can play merry hell with this, and that’s the issue here: where a coalition includes one or more parties who have created an overhang, they can potentially govern with fewer than 50% of the party votes. Since the overhang is caused by the 5% threshold (and nothing else), the logical consequence for electoral reform is to scrap the 5% threshold, not to scrap MMP altogether. So I agree with Tim Ellis’ premise here: go ahead and try [to govern], but not his conclusion: It will be the death knell to MMP.

    2. A party cannot form a government unless it has a majority of seats in the house. Definitions: a clear majority is when a party has 50% plus one of all seats in parliament and can govern unfettered, as was typical under first past the post. An effective majority is when a party has fewer than 50% plus one of all seats in the house, but can convince one or more parties to abstain on confidence and supply and allow it to govern alone. This is not the same as a coalition. So all this talk of a `National government’ or a `Labour government’ and most ludicrously a `Green government’ rests on the party in question gaining an effective majority in the house, which is very unlikely to happen in this election (except in National’s case where it is just unlikely). Let us ignore either of these results as uncontroversial for now.

    Where there does not exist an effective majority, a party does not form government. This is a fundamental premise of proportional representation systems.Parties comprising a majority in parliament form a government. That means, on the basis of the hypothetical five-party coalition, Labour would not be the government, they would be a (major) part of the government, and the remainder of the government would be formed by other parties who between them made up majority. This leads into the next point:

    3. You cast your party vote for a party, not against all the other parties. All the rhetoric that if people vote for anyone other than Labour they don’t want Labour in government is bullshit. It would be true if your vote was an implicit vote against all the other parties, but since you only have one vote, it isn’t. It’s stupid to argue that a vote for ACT is a vote exclusively for ACT, since if it were, it’d be a wasted vote. Under proportional representation systems, you vote for a party on the basis not only of their policy and political culture and all that, but on the basis of who they are likely to go into coalition with. The KBR understand this, as their `Labour First’ billboard makes clear, although some of them are wilfully pretending not to understand it when it suits them. This means (per point 2 above) that when you cast a vote for a party in the knowledge they are possibly going into coalition with other parties, you are tacitly giving them a mandate to include those other parties in government. THis puts the lie to the idea that a party without an effective majority has lost its mandate – that party can only be said to have lost its mandate if it and all its coalition partners fail to muster a majority of seats in the house.

    4. Parties only get to support one government at a time. Per the Cabinet Manual I linked to above, government is formed when the Governor-General is satisfied that a party or bloc of parties has the confidence of the house – that is, 50% + 1 seats. Because each member has only one parliamentary ballot to cast, the question of who he or she supports is generally not in doubt. The idea that the party with the largest plurality of seats get the first attempt to form a government is in this sense meaningless – if they can stitch up a government, they can do so at any time – and if they can’t, they can’t. The G-G is under obligation to accept the first petition for government which has the confidence of the house. It’s that simple. Because of the exclusivity of the confidence ballot, that government’s formation necessarily prevents any other government from being formed.There’s no question that Labour forming a coalition government with other parties would prevent National doing so – if tany of those parties wanted to support National’s coalition government they are free to do so but have manifestly chosen not to. The only case in which this argument could be made is if a potentially swinging coalition partner publicly gave their vote to the first party who wanted it – in which case the shunned suitor’s argument is with that party, and nobody else.

    My apologies for being so long-winded – but the degree of simple constitutional ignorance in these arguments can’t be allowed to stand.

    L

  25. randal 25

    there is nothing constitutional about your arguments lew. they are all just wishfull thinking to support the latest assertion of the national party about how people “should” behave according to them.
    better luck next time

  26. Lew 26

    randal: That’s funny, I thought I was defending the current electoral law we have which could possibly return a Labour/Progressive/Green/MP coalition in November against the National party’s supporters who seemingly want a government to be formed on the basis of `moral mandate’ rather than electoral mandate.

    But then – it’s not surprising you’ve misread it, since you seem to form your response to a given comment after reading the poster’s name, rather than the comment itself.

    L

  27. randal 27

    lew you are not defending anything. you are just filling up the space with mind numbing crap designed to bore voters to death and the quality of your output is less than the most junior of junior lecturers and not good enough to go in wikepedia.
    just rubbish

    R
    (howzat)

  28. dave 28

    in othe words, randal just doesnt understand what Lew has written. Thats why most of randals comments here are purile. Poor boy. I thought they were so good Ive linked them here

  29. Akldnut 29

    Steve I think that the supposed moral mandate came from the supposed mainstream that were hiding under National banners during the leftwing rainstorm at the in 2005

  30. randal 30

    I read lews diatribe and I went to your site dave and just more of the same.
    boring people to death with prose dense enough to make concrete
    Just get on with it.
    POlicies will always win the day.
    National wants to use bribes but they aint enough dough in the kitty even for them
    It seems to me that certain rightwhingers in this forum are just trying to erect a platform for future electoral reform but they are out of luck
    read the ‘fern and the kiwi’ for a most illuminating outline of the kwi character and you will see why new zealand will never go back to fpp.
    mmp is the only way kiwis have to stick it to big heads
    you betcha!

    R
    (r am feeling really presumptuous)

  31. Weather Eye Of The North 31

    Oh Boy ! The right still hasn’t lost it’s underlying belief in “born-to-rule” (for them that is), the exemplar being Wee-Shifty-Eyes unveiling his “established” convention that the party with the most seats is entitled………blah blah blah.

    This against their endlessly prattled slogan throughout Labour’s terms – “….this minority Labour government.” And this from a party which had only 27 seats or so at the time they were caterwauling it. And this from a party under Brash that certainly acted as though it was unaware of any such “convention”.

    What hypocrites they are ! Freaking out hypocrites as well with their self-stroking “born-to-rule” landslide bubble having all but burst.

    Grow up girls and learn the territory. In the meantime enough of this – “It’s MY turn….” crap. Will get you nowhere except a lonely spot from which you can contemplate the fallacy of your “born-to-rule” fantasy.

  32. dave 32

    Randal I am a supporter of both PR and the Maori seats – does that make me a left whinger or a right whinger?

  33. higherstandard 33

    WEOTN

    “Born to rule”

    Could you please explain who this refers to in the current parties of what you call the “right”

    Or is it just a convenient bigoted smear you like to trot out ?

  34. NeillR 34

    National have been the beneficiaries of quirks in the electoral system more than once.
    And the electoral system was changed as a result. Don’t underestimate the power of the electorate to do the same thing if they feel that the current system doesn’t give them the government that they want. In fact, you’ll find the results of the Herald’s survey show that 60% of voters would consider a government that was not composed of the highest polling party under MMP to be “a rightful government”.
    Parties who would sign up to a coalition of the minority would do so at their peril.

  35. randal 35

    Dave some people are just idiots whatever party they support.
    Are you in that category?

    [lprent: Make a point – don’t just attack other commentators. You’ll stay in moderation until you improve or I get tired of releasing your comments]

  36. Lew 36

    NeillR: the results of the Herald?s survey show that 60% of voters would consider a government that was not composed of the highest polling party under MMP to be ?a rightful government?.

    No, that’s not what it found, as I’ve explained (and you’re been unable to refute) on the other thread. My response now has the important bits highlighted; I encourage you to address them (if you can):

    Are you genuinely suggesting we change NZ’s electoral rules if an election produces a result the NZ Herald’s focus group doesn’t like?

    Aside from the obvious idiocy of electoral reform by straw poll, the question to which they responded was particularly fallacious. According to the link “they were asked whether New Zealanders would see a party that finished second as the rightful government.” Let’s be crystal fucking clear: a party does not form a government, unless it gets a majority. Parties comprising a majority in parliament form a government. That means, on the basis of the hypothetical five-party coalition, Labour would not be the government, they would be a part of the government, and the remainder of the government would be formed by other parties who between them made up majority. The question is misleading, so it’s hardly surprising that the answers are meaningless.

    L

  37. Tim Ellis 38

    Lew, I agree with all your points, with one rider:

    There’s no question that Labour forming a coalition government with other parties would prevent National doing so – if tany of those parties wanted to support National’s coalition government they are free to do so but have manifestly chosen not to. The only case in which this argument could be made is if a potentially swinging coalition partner publicly gave their vote to the first party who wanted it – in which case the shunned suitor’s argument is with that party, and nobody else.

    In the past two parties have either said in advance that they will give negotiating preference to the largest party, or have used the justification after the fact. The examples I highlight are NZ First in 1996 and 2005, and United in 2005. There is no constitutional basis for this position, but it’s probably reasonable to argue that a party that has a plurality is likely to need fewer partners to build an effective majority, and that the relative power of the minor partner is likely to increase where there are fewer smaller parties within the majority.

    For example, if hypothetically National had 55 seats, Act had 4 seats, and United had 2 seats, United might feel it would have more relative power within a National-led government than forming a coalition with Labour, Greens, Progressives, New Zealand First and the Maori Party.

    My conclusion that an effective majority based on an overhang which denied the parties representing the majority of the party votes from forming a government would be the “death knell” of MMP was a political comment, rather than a constitutional one. Of course, constitutionally an overhang can exist and effective majorities can be formed based on it, and parties can collude to maximise the overhang.

    My view is based, however, on an observation that there is a reasonable dissatisfaction with the MMP system at present (probably not 50%, but not far from it); that MMP was introduced in order to provide what its proponents claimed was greater “fairness” that stemmed from several elections in which the party that received the plurality of the vote was unable to achieve a parliamentary majority, and that the exploitation of the overhang would undermine that advantage over FPP. I think that deliberate manipulation of the overhang, as some Left commentators have advocated, would further increase dissatisfaction with the MMP system.

    SP has put together a whole lot of straw-man arguments. I haven’t heard John Key say any along the lines of “the Right has the right to govern if it gets more votes than Labour”. His whole premise is flawed.

  38. Lew 39

    Tim: Yes, and having given the undertaking to work with the largest plurality, I think they have a responsibility to abide by it – but I think this is largely irrelevant in 2008, since every incumbent party bar the māori party have declared their allegiance already. It bears repeating that the process of forming a government is extremely simple: get 50% plus 1 votes in the house and tell the Governor-General. Gentleman’s agreements aren’t worth a damn except inasmuch as they’re backed by parliamentary votes.

    I understand that your prediction that MMP would end if a coalition exploited the overhang to form a government without the popular vote was political, and I think it’s a possibility. However to an extent it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater, because the problem is caused by the threshold, and can be solved by removing (or reducing) the threshold.

    I think a greater danger in exploiting the overhang is the chance of a resurgence in the (for want of a more neutral term I’ll use the one employed by National’s strategists) redneck wing of the Nats, blaming the māori party and by extension all Māori for having lost the election. That said, I don’t agree with the doctrine of sacrificing democracy for stability, so neither this possibility nor the `five-headed monster’ rhetoric has much currency for me.

    L

  39. Lew 40

    … and with my conspiracy theory hat on: In the NatRad debate, Peter Dunne said a short while ago that `whatever party forms a government, there will be a mini-budget in December’. I wonder whether he and John Key talk about in in their ersatz nuptials? The test will be whether National stops its `why won’t they tell us now’ line about Labour’s declared December mini-budget.

    L

  40. Tim Ellis 41

    Lew said:

    However to an extent it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater, because the problem is caused by the threshold, and can be solved by removing (or reducing) the threshold.

    I disagree. Minor overhangs may exist in general electorates from time to time, of the order of one or two seats. They tend to happen when independents win electorates. Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton will probably be examples of this in 2008. The existence of the Maori seats, however, is likely to exacerbate the overhang (and changing the percentage threshhold for qualification doesn’t change that).

    When you ring-fence a community based on either regional or ethnic lines, then there is a probability that a Party will emerge to represent that community. The Maori Party is likely to get 6 of the 7 Maori seats. There is no incentive for them to go chasing the party vote in Maori seats, let alone general seats.

    Ironically, despite being a creation of MMP, the Maori Party doesn’t rely on MMP for its continued existence. It owes its existence solely to the Maori seats. If New Zealand returned to FPP, it’s likely there would be as many as 10 Maori seats, if the Maori electoral option was retained.

    There could well be a backlash against the Maori seats if the overhang was exploited to deny the majority of the vote the ability to form a government; I don’t see a way of eliminating the overhang issue without either abolishing the Maori seats, and perhaps reducing the threshhold to say 2%, or changing the electoral system dramatically.

  41. Carol 42

    Clomar Brunton poll out now:

    http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/1320238/2232258
    Election race starts to narrow

    “he last poll a week ago showed National 14 points ahead of Labour, but this has now narrowed to 12 points.

    The National Party has dropped back three points, down to 47%. Labour has also dropped back by one point, now on 35%. Labour’s friends, the Green Party have bounced back, up to 8%. Meanwhile, New Zealand First is on 3%, edging closer to the magic 5% threshold.

    The Maori Party is sitting on 2.8%, however, their focus is on the electorate seats, so they will not be too concerned with the low party vote. The Act Party is still just above 2%.”

    “Key is still the preferred choice for Prime Minister on 38% but the race has closed right up. Clark is now breathing down Key’s neck on 37%, up by three points. Meanwhile, 3% of voters w”

  42. Magnus 43

    pawprick,
    ‘The the views of the majorty should be respected! its called Democracy!’
    No, that is majoritarianism. There is a very big difference.
    This election has just seen the New Zealand Parliament revert to what Parliaments used to be about: loosely aligned factions with similar ideas rallying around one leader to get their more salient points across more effectively. As a Labour supporter I say more of it, from both the right and the left. The more that different parties have their input in to governance, the more the true will of the greater population is served when it comes to policy making.

  43. Lew 44

    Tim: They tend to happen when independents win electorates. Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton will probably be examples of this in 2008. The existence of the Maori seats, however, is likely to exacerbate the overhang (and changing the percentage threshhold for qualification doesn’t change that)

    Tim, I understand how MMP works and what causes the overhang, and it’s nothing to do with independents. The overhang is caused when a party wins more electorate seats than their share of the party vote would otherwise entitle them to. Dunne and Anderton are a red herring in this case – pre-election polls notwithstanding, their parties tend to get about or above the 0.8% which would entitle them to their leader’s electorate seat, so that’s not it. The Māori seats are also a red herring – any party which can win seven seats while gaining only 3% of the party vote would trigger the same 3-seat overhang.

    I don’t see a way of eliminating the overhang issue without either abolishing the Maori seats, and perhaps reducing the threshhold to say 2%, or changing the electoral system dramatically.

    It’s really not an either/or situation, though I understand it can be seen that way, and the opponents of MMP would be keen to paint it that way. Just reducing the threshold will solve the overhang issue, because it’s not caused by the Māori seats, it’s caused by the presence of a bloc of seats where one party has clear electorate dominance out of proportion with their party vote share. The other thing which would solve this would be if the māori party continued its current two ticks campaign.

    L

  44. DS 45

    By the way, the Nats just prior to the election in 2002 were talking up the prospect of a National + ACT + NZ First + United Future coalition (English apparently wasn’t intending to concede on the night, in hope of being able to stitch together a deal, until the late night results made such a coalition impossible). At one point on the night, with Labour leading by a good 12-15 percent, the TV media was saying that it might all hinge on Peters (only for Labour’s lead to then balloon out to 20 percent).

    All of which does, of course, indicate that the Right has no problem with multi-headed monsters when it is *their* multi-headed monster.

  45. Lew 46

    [lprent: Nuked as requested]

  46. dave 47

    I don’t see a way of eliminating the overhang issue without either abolishing the Maori seats, and perhaps reducing the threshhold to say 2%, or changing the electoral system dramatically.

    I do.

    Its bullshit to say that the existence of Maori Seats exacerbates the overhang. Complete bullshit. An increasing proportion of a party’s share of the vote being less than the number of electorate seats gained does. The overhang issue can be eliminated without abolishing the Maori Seats, without reducing the threshold (that can help, tho) or changing the electorate system. The only thing that will solve it other htan reducingthe threshold is if a higher proportion of people vote for the the party likely to be in overhang Thats why:

    The other thing which would solve this [overhang] would be if the māori party (or any other party in an overhang situation for that matter) continued its current two ticks campaign.

    It would also solve it if it encouraged those in General electorate to vote the Maori Party, meaning that even fewer would vote Labour as well as reduce any overhang .And of course if the overhang lowers to the extent that the share of the Party vote is proportionally equivalent to the number of of electorate seats thanks to this combined with the two ticks campaign , then the 5% threshold does not cause an overhang, so its not a problem, as any Government can have a majority with fewer seats than a Parliament in overhang – ie 50% plus 1..

  47. dave 48

    .. and for those who think the 5% threshold should be scrapped and a party should be proportionally represented in Parliament ONLY if it gets one elected member is effectively advocating a 0.8% threshold with a caveat

    .If no members get elected even if they get 18% of the vote, its Social Credit all over again. If one member gets elected, they `re technically in overhang if the party does not get 0.8% of the vote, and will have list MPs if they get more than 1.6% as per now, if four get elected with 2% of the vote – like the Maori Party – we still have an overhang, but a parliament with the likelihood of fewer parties – meaning the parties left will each have a higher proportion of members in the House.

  48. lprent 49

    dave: I think that if we’re looking at getting rid of anti-democratic seats stuff, that you’d also be hanging out to remove the fixed quotient for electorates in the south island.

    The number of electorate MPs is calculated in three steps. The less populated of New Zealand’s two principal islands, the South Island, has a fixed quota of 16 seats. The number of seats for the North Island and the number of special reserved seats for Māori are then calculated in proportion to these.

    There are all kinds of interesting factors that will fall out of that distortion over time.

  49. dave 50

    I Think that if we’re looking at getting rid of anti-democratic seats stuff, that you’d also be hanging out to remove the fixed quotient for electorates in the south island.
    Not before we agree that the Maori seats are democratic

  50. Ianmac 51

    Elsewhere there is discussion on variations (Based on suggestion started by Idiot Savant.). If the electorate seats were abolished and there was fixed number of seats say 100 seats for ease of explanation. Percentage determines the outcome thus:
    1% = 1 seat.
    15% =15 seats
    51%= majority
    < 1% = no seats.
    Maori Party would be part of the %??
    % rounded to nearest whole
    Outcome simple eh?.

  51. Lew 52

    Bah, I’ve misread and mis-edited my own post in haste. Ignore, if you can, the amendment above. Lynn, if you’d delete it I’d be obliged, even though it’s public record now.

    dave: I agree with your point about the māori party’s party vote and the general roll.

    I argued to some success with an ACT activist recently that the māori party were using the Māori seats as a platform for normalising a political philosophy based in kaupapa Māori and thereby giving the next generation of Māori public figures a leg-up into politics, a field in which they’ve historically been marginalised. I think the endgame (and it won’t be soon) is that the māori party accedes to the repeal of the Māori seats, having established a sufficient basis of support among both Māori and Pākehā voters. It’s early days yet.

    L

  52. Lew 53

    Ianmac: Why is simplicity an especially important criterion? Should robustness and representation not be more valuable?

    L

  53. Tim Ellis 54

    dave said:

    Its bullshit to say that the existence of Maori Seats exacerbates the overhang. Complete bullshit. An increasing proportion of a party’s share of the vote being less than the number of electorate seats gained does.

    I disagree. And here’s why. The Maori Party is running a first-past-the-post campaign in the seven Maori seats. It takes, on average, about 20,000 party votes to win an additional list seat. To get five percent of the seats, a party needs to achieve around 100,000 party votes.

    To win an electorate in a Maori seat means winning around 9,000 electorate votes, as an approximate, given that Maori seats only have around 20,000 voters participating.

    For the Maori Party to normally get 7 MPs on the list, they would need 120,000 party votes. Or they could get 63,000 electorate votes. Given that they are only really campaigning in Maori seats (they say otherwise, but that’s the reality), if the Maori Party win all the Maori electorates, the Maori Party has to campaign strongly for the general party vote, and win a far higher proportion of the Party vote in the Maori seats than they do at present in order to avoid an overhang.

    In other terms, the Maori Party has no incentive to chase the Party vote anywhere. Once they have won seven electorates, they have to get more than twice as many party votes as electorate votes in order to get an additional MP. There’s no incentive for the Maori Party to do that when they’re appealing to a Maori constituency.

  54. toad 55

    Tim Ellis said: <i…the Maori Party has no incentive to chase the Party vote anywhere.

    Actually, Tim, they do. Because they are runing a long-term campaign, not just interested in maximising votes atthis election.

    So while increasing their Party vote and attempting to be credible on the list, rather than just the Maori electorates, will gain them nothing electorally this this time around, they are looking long-term to getting Party votes from the general roll and eventually becoming a Party that can win list seats.

    Which actually pisses me off in the context of this election. The Maori Party could do much better policy-wise in the next 3 years by telling their supporters to vote Green on the list, becasue the Greens and the Maori Party have considerable policy synergy and maximising their numbers as a bloc would be in both their best immediate interests imo.

  55. Tim Ellis 56

    Actually, Tim, they do. Because they are runing a long-term campaign, not just interested in maximising votes atthis election.

    I don’t understand that logic toad. I’m not being facetious, and tell me if I’ve misconstrued what you said, but I’ve never heard of a political party not trying to maximise its vote at every election.

    So while increasing their Party vote and attempting to be credible on the list, rather than just the Maori electorates, will gain them nothing electorally this this time around, they are looking long-term to getting Party votes from the general roll and eventually becoming a Party that can win list seats.

    That’s not the campaign they’re running this time around though toad. The Maori Party got 48,000 party votes last time. About 75% of it was in the Maori seats. The campaign they are running at present, from what I can see, is not in the general seats. They aren’t even running candidates in general seats. Their focus is on winning the other three Maori seats that they don’t currently have. The top seven candidates on their list are all their constituency candidates.

    Which actually pisses me off in the context of this election. The Maori Party could do much better policy-wise in the next 3 years by telling their supporters to vote Green on the list, becasue the Greens and the Maori Party have considerable policy synergy and maximising their numbers as a bloc would be in both their best immediate interests imo.

    I absolutely do not comprehend this argument. This would absolutely confine the Maori Party to a constituency-only party, and would absolutely guarantee a much larger overhang than is likely at present. It would seriously undermine any attempt from the Maori Party to campaign for party vote in the general seats in the next election, which is what you claim should be the Maori Party’s strategy now. The reality is that if the Maori Party get 6 seats (and I reckon there’s about a 70% chance of that), we’re likely to have a 125 seat parliament. If they get all seven Maori seats, and I think there’s about a 50/50 chance of that happening, then there will be a 126 seat parliament.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the Maori seats per se, or using mechanisms to guarantee Maori representation. I just don’t see a justification for the Maori seats within an MMP system because of the likely hazard of an overhang. I also don’t believe that Maori seats are required to guarantee Maori representation. Maori representation is already much higher in almost every political party than it was pre-MMP. If there were a risk that representation might be lost, then there might be a good argument for list quotas by registered parties.

  56. dave 57

    I also don’t believe that Maori seats are required to guarantee Maori representation

    What about effective representation, Tim? That’s more than just Maori bums on seats y’know. The Maori seats are needed for both guaranteed proportional representation and effective representation as they are the only seats that are drawn from a dedicated Maori constituency. You don’t see a justification for Maori seats because of a likely hazard of an overhang, but you think it is ok if the seats were ditched fora likely hazard of under proportionality? That’s a pretty inconsistent argument, and hardly effective or proportional representation of Maori representation

    Maori representation is already much higher in almost every political party than it was pre-MMP

    It would be proportionally lower without the seats – and you consider that Jill Pettis, Clem Simich and Georgina Beyer were effectively representing Maori? Yeah right. Oh and the Maori Party is running a two ticks campaign in the Maori seats.

  57. Since the overhang is caused by the 5% threshold (and nothing else), the logical consequence for electoral reform is to scrap the 5% threshold,

    Not true. (The possibility of) Overhang is completely unrelated to the threshold. The threshold can create disproportionality (imagine a result where the Family Party, and Kiwi Party each get 4.9%, and get no seats to add to National’s lone 44%), but the threshold does not create disproportionality through overhang.

  58. Ari 59

    Weather Eye Of The North:

    Grow up girls and learn the territory.

    Can I suggest we not use misogynistic language to attack the Right? The Left as a whole is far more vulnerable to the consequences of sexism and general identity bigotry than the Right are, and we shouldn’t hand them ammunition from a purely practical sense.

    And that’s completely ignoring how much it personally offends me. 😛 There is nothing wrong with girls, (in fact, they’re pretty damn awesome in a variety of ways) and the National Party doesn’t need to “grow up” like some ageist tagline, it needs to “face the music” of what New Zealand is really like, and stop repeating its hollow and misleading talking points about how the absolute number of crimes and beneficiaries has gone up along with our population. Any statistics student would laugh at them.

    Tim Ellis:

    Several commentators on the Left are encouraging a scenario whereby the overhang is maximised (Progressive voters giving party votes to Labour, Maori Party giving party votes to Labour or Greens, goodness, I wonder who has made those calls recently?). What is the purpose of this? Oh, that’s right, it’s to improve the possibility that even if the Right get the majority of votes, the will of the majority can be suppressed through a strategic manipulation of the overhang.

    In terms of strategic voting, this is what people should do if they support multiple Left-leaning parties. Telling people how to vote strategically is a little different from endorsing strategic voting, (especially unproportional and potentially undemocratic strategies) especially as many of us consider electoral systems worthy of discussion on their own, and their vulnerabilities as an inherent pitfall to complement their advantages.

    I agree with you that overhung party electorate seats (eg. in this election, most likely some of the seats of the Progressive, Maori, and United Future parties) are undemocratic and would like to see their effect mitigated. Then again, I also think the threshold is undemocratic and that any Party should be in Parliament if it can win a list seat outright. (ie. the threshold should be determined by whether number of party votes >= (number of votes / number of list seats in parliament)) However, how is it possible to mitigate the effect of overhang seats without removing electorates? The only way being suggested by these right-leaning commentators is to scrap proportionality entirely, which makes the electoral system just as undemocratic with vote-wastage, third party spoilers, electorate gerrymandering, and other potential FPP disasters. Oh, and conveniently, this system has historically favoured their party, while the only winners from MMP have been minor parties and those who felt disenfranchised by FPP.

    If people hate the overhang so much, they should campaign for electorate seats to obey the threshold, too, along with a more sensible threshold that allows reasonable minority respresentation. Yes, *sigh* even Winston Peters, if voters still want him. Hell, I would join you. I want to see Peter Dunne outside of Parliament. I hate populists masquerading as centrists with the fury of a thousand suns.

    My conclusion that an effective majority based on an overhang which denied the parties representing the majority of the party votes from forming a government would be the “death knell’ of MMP was a political comment, rather than a constitutional one. Of course, constitutionally an overhang can exist and effective majorities can be formed based on it, and parties can collude to maximise the overhang.

    Were that the case, FPP would’ve been “dead” several times over before the 1990s. Don’t overestimate the impact of political outrage of the vocal. Ultimately it’s about publicity and momentum, not events that could potentially be mere “footnotes”. Some of those potential footnotes cause a revolution, others slip quietly by while a few impassioned commentators yell about them to anyone who will listen, and eventually historians or academics will regard them as interesting facts.

    Whether this is a footnote in our electoral history or the start of a revolution (and let’s not kid ourselves, even if it’s much easier these days, changing the electoral system is still a revolution in the deepest sense of the word) is entirely contingent on who and how many take(s) it as an impetus to act.

    Finally, you’re presuming that MMP as a whole would be the target. Why are you so intent on throwing out the baby along with the bathwater?

    My view is based, however, on an observation that there is a reasonable dissatisfaction with the MMP system at present (probably not 50%, but not far from it); that MMP was introduced in order to provide what its proponents claimed was greater “fairness’ that stemmed from several elections in which the party that received the plurality of the vote was unable to achieve a parliamentary majority, and that the exploitation of the overhang would undermine that advantage over FPP. I think that deliberate manipulation of the overhang, as some Left commentators have advocated, would further increase dissatisfaction with the MMP system.

    There is both dissatisfaction and support for MMP. I think it’s useless to try and quantify it without a poll, (and Lew has pointed out some of the more obvious difficulties in that approach) and even then, only a referendum really has any final or reasonably accurate or acceptably final say in the matter.

    By the by, I’m not even sure if there’s an entirely neutral and sufficiently clear way to word the “moral duty” question for a poll. Every way I can think of that makes it clear exactly what’s happening when we support the single largest party always forming government also draws attention to the disenfranchisement of third party voters.

    SP has put together a whole lot of straw-man arguments. I haven’t heard John Key say any along the lines of “the Right has the right to govern if it gets more votes than Labour’. His whole premise is flawed.

    This post is not about John Key. There is one- presumably flippant- use of his name in the entire text. This post is about whether the single largest party has a moral right to form a coalition government, as some on the right have started claiming since National pulled ahead of Labour, and since supporters of a Labour-led government pointed out National’s lack of secure coalition partners. It seems to me you’re the one (probably inadvertently) engaging in straw man arguments, as the point of this post applies regardless of whether John Key supported the largest party having first shot at government or not.

    Graeme Edgler:

    Not true. (The possibility of) Overhang is completely unrelated to the threshold.

    Many people give their electorate votes to politicians who overhang their party votes in order to get them into parliament. In that sense, some of the overhang is directly related to the threshold.

    The other, more significant source of overhang in MMP is “electorate parties” like the Maori Party. Do they disrupt proportionality? Yes. In principle I dislike that. However given the reality of significant Maori disenfranchisement, I think overall it’s actually better to leave the Maori seats intact, regardless of what we try and do to combat overhang.

  59. Lew 60

    Lynn: Thank you,

    Graeme: The threshold causes overhangs for behavioural reasons, not technical reasons. There’s an element of cognitive dissonance (thinking their party vote doesn’t matter, even though it does as soon as one MP wins an electorate), and an element of uncertainty (are other people voting for this party?) which increases regret (what if they don’t, and my vote is wasted?). The cognitive dissonance element may decrease as electors begin to understand MMP more (it can take a generation or so). Decreasing or removing the threshold will reduce the uncertainty and consequently the regret, and essentially free people up to cast their party vote for whatever party they want, secure in the knowledge it will count.

    Tim: SP has put together a whole lot of straw-man arguments. I haven’t heard John Key say any along the lines of “the Right has the right to govern if it gets more votes than Labour’. His whole premise is flawed.

    Key said: `strong presumption of a moral mandate’ this morning, so at worst Steve jumped the gun a little. See here.

    L

  60. Graeme Edgler:

    Not true. (The possibility of) Overhang is completely unrelated to the threshold.

    Many people give their electorate votes to politicians who overhang their party votes in order to get them into parliament. In that sense, some of the overhang is directly related to the threshold.

    Except that the same result happens with any threshold, or indeed no threshold. A party which uses its success in an electorate to get list seats doesn’t create an overhang.

  61. The threshold causes overhangs for behavioural reasons, not technical reasons.

    I can see the argument, but I’d note for starters that this has yet to happen. Overhang is caused by popular local MPs who win without bringing the party vote sufficiently with them. Yes, the threat of (say) Winston Peters not winning Tauranga may cause people not to vote NZF, and the threat of Jeannette Fitzsimons losing Corromandel may have caused people not to vote Green, but while this artificially diminishes their parties’ votes, it hasn’t yet (and, I’d suggest, is unlikely to) diminished any party’s support to below the approximately 0.7% needed for a seat.

    Peter Dunne or Jim Anderton may cause overhang this time ’round, but it won’t be caused by diminished voting out of fear that their parties aren’t going to win 5%.

  62. Lew 63

    Graeme: I’d note for starters that this has yet to happen.

    Well, all this talk of the overhang is more or less academic since there’s only ever been one overhang, of one seat. I’d argue that the 2005 overhang was caused by this very phenomenon, with traditional Labour voters being reluctant to switch their party vote to a Johnny-come-lately māori party due to uncertainty about their support base (but being somewhat prepared to cast electorate votes for the candidates in question).

    L

  63. dave 64

    Graeme, As you said the threshold has a bearing if people think a candidate will win a seat and subsequently doesnt but it also has a bearing if a Minor party candidate is unlikely to win a seat and subsequently does as fewer people would vote for that candidate’ party – but more would if they knew the chances of election were great thus ensuring proportionality is closer for that party, diminshing the overhang. So the 5% is a relevant factor in voting choices here, too, and wouldbe as a result of diminished voting out of fear that their parties aren’t going to win 5%

    Lew – I think people party vote the Maori party for different reasons than others.In 2008 people will party vote National because they`d like National in Govt (or as a protest vote). They vote Act because they want to see checks on a possible govt in case Rodney Hide doesn’t get in. They vote Green to increase the party vote as that will get more MPs in parliament. They vote Kiwi Party because they like christian values – but they vote Maori Party not because they want their vote to count, not because it will increase the number of MPs in Parliament, not because they want checks on Labour -it may go with National – but because they are Maori, or because they want to see Maori aspirations furthered and the party is the only party drawn from a Maori constituency that has those interests at heart and they consider that even though their vote is wasted, conviction is put before strategy.

  64. Lew 65

    dave: Interesting. The rational strategy in the short term (presuming it favours a Labour-led coalition in government) would be for the māori party to maximise the overhang by trading off party votes to Green, but that might endanger the party’s fortunes in the long term due to a backlash such as TIm warns about. But their not doing this makes sense in terms of Ari’s idea that the māori party are playing the long game, by reverting to a two-ticks campaign in order to mitigate that potential backlash if the overhang prevents a Nat party-vote majority NACTUF coalition from forming a government, and at the same time shoring up support for and increasing confidence in the māori party for the future – the prospect that their party vote might in future be worth more than the Māori electorates.

    L

  65. I’d argue that the 2005 overhang was caused by this very phenomenon, with traditional Labour voters being reluctant to switch their party vote to a Johnny-come-lately māori party due to uncertainty about their support base (but being somewhat prepared to cast electorate votes for the candidates in question).

    I’m prepared to concede that for the sake of argument.

    The conclusion that follows, of course, is that the overhang was unrelated to the threshold.

  66. NeillR 67

    This post is about whether the single largest party has a moral right to form a coalition government, as some on the right have started claiming since National pulled ahead of Labour,

    It’s not just “the right”. There have been two polls in the last couple of days which show that the overwhelming majority of people surveyed believe the same. Given that TVNZ’s poll showed 79% were in favour, it can hardly be seen as just some invention of “the right”.

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