The emerging consensus to keep MMP

Written By: - Date published: 2:00 pm, September 14th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: MMP - Tags:

Unexpectedly, a consensus is emerging to keep MMP. A search of the Herald, Stuff and other sites shows that most editorial pages and political commentators are against changing systems, citing MMP as fair and a check on the unbridled power the largest party enjoyed under First Past the Post*. The only notable exception is Fran O’Sullivan, shilling as usual for the anti-democratic interests of the business elite.

Recent polls have shown MMP is the favoured electoral system of 45%-53% of the population. A large portion have no opinion and the remainder are probably split between favouring FFP, SM, or STV. Support for MMP might not be unanimous but it is far and away the most popular system and there is no clamour for change.

Having been anti-MMP before its introduction, there is now little appetite from either major party to change it.

Although John Key supports Supplementary Member (described as FPP with a winner’s bonus) he is clearly not too keen on a change and even less keen on the business elite’s hope of sneaking through a change in a low-turnout (ie right-biased) mid-term referendum. Key says that he doesn’t sense a mood for change and that any vote has to be at a general election to ensure high turnout, otherwise it will lack legitimacy.

Phil Goff has proposed some changes to MMP – no proportionality for parties not exceeding the threshold (eg ACT in 2008), more electorate MPs and fewer from the lists (we have a guest post coming critiquing that idea), and a ban on List MPs waka-jumping – but Labour is now committed to MMP because it is fair and has brought a greater diversity of voices into Parliament.

While I’m not convinced with all of Labour’s initial suggestions, I think Goff has the right idea here – acknowledge that there are some aspects of MMP that the public is dissatisfed with and go into the election offering ways to fix those specific problems without getting rid of the best electoral system around.

Offering the public a choice of throwing out the bathwater while keeping the baby would be popular. Just as importantly, it would show that Labour really is listening. The trick will be in making sure they actually do.

* or, as in 1978 and 1981, the party that came second in the popular vote.

18 comments on “The emerging consensus to keep MMP”

  1. George D 1

    I’ve been looking at the past wistfully, and thinking what might have been had MMP been put in place any time between 78 and 96.

    Anyone on the left who doesn’t support a truly proportional system is very stupid and has a very short memory. I’m glad Labour is now in favour.

  2. “Phil Goff has proposed some changes to MMP”

    no he hasn’t. this was a remit from christchurch, supported by hon lianne dalziell & voted on by the conference. has phil actually made public his views on this remit? and if he has, can we have a link please?

    • Bright Red 2.1

      On Q+A Goff mentioned the 80:40 seats idea didn’t he?

    • Ari 2.2

      While more electorates might make FPP supporters happy, it would also increase the likelyhood of overhangs, and it would probably make electorate votes even more of a low-vote contest than they are now. Usually only the two highest candidates in an electorate even get into the thousands of electorate votes in NZ, which is not exactly a great recipe for robust candidate selection.

      Also, the changes that Labour has suggested, in true Labour fashion, are designed to lock out the more problematic minor parties and give them an advantage in forming governments. Much better to set the threshold to winning a single seat outright from the list vote- then you never have to worry about piggybacking, just the effect of below-threshold electorate MPs, the overhang, and independent MPs.

  3. 80:40 seat split will also mean about 10 Maori seats. Be careful for what you wish for.

  4. Jasper 4

    The other changes that should be made
    – reduce the threshold for party vote to 4%
    – if the party doesn’t reach the 4%, but they win an electorate, then only that electorate MP can enter parliament. Therefore only Hide would be in Parliament.
    – if the party does reach 4%, and has an electorate, then they enter Parliament
    – if a list MP leaves the party, they’re booted from Parliament. i.e. Gordon Copeland
    – if an electorate MP leaves the party, they’re still in Parliament as they’re democratically elected by the people of the electorate so can’t ride roughshod over their views.
    – if an MP chooses to run in an electorate, they cannot then also have the safety net of the list to enter parliament should they not win an electorate. It should be all or nothing.

    • Edosan 4.1

      I agree with all of those except the last one. A party might potentially want a particular individual and put them high on the list, but I don’t think that should stop that individual from also contesting an electorate if they wish, and if they feel they can handle the extra workload.

    • Yeah – with that rule, you’re basically saying that no-one from the Greens can run in an electorate. They’re not running to win the electorate, but why shouldn’t they be able to turn up to meet the candidates meetings etc.?

      Have you a particular reason why you’d like the threshold as high as 4%?

      • Ari 4.2.1

        Well, to be fair, the Greens run plenty of candidates for electorates that are well down the list. What it would mean, however, is that minor parties winning significant amounts of list votes would need to have an exhaustive supply of candidates to run in any electorates at all, which I think is pretty undemocratic.

        Not entirely sure whether I agree or disagree with List MPs that leave or are removed from their party being kicked out in favour of the next MP. I mean, on the one hand, people voted for their party, not them specifically, but on the other hand, the list is a promise of who to bring, and people vote for that too, and it should be something that parties make an investment in and a commitment to.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.2.1.1

          the list is a promise of who to bring, and people vote for that too,

          They do?

          I’d be highly surprised if more than a few percent of voters ever looked at the lists prior to the election simply because most people don’t have the time.

  5. ghostwhowalksnz 5

    I understand that some Countries with party lists allow an option to change the order of the list.
    So you can choose them in a different order to what you are given.

    Jasper , all or nothing wouldnt work as you can loose very experienced MPs and also leads to gerrymandering of the electorate boundarys. Yes they do have major dustups over whether this or that suburb should be in various electorates, the two major parties are included on the boundary commission

  6. Jasper 6

    Then experienced MPs shouldn’t need to worry about losing an electorate then should they ghost?

    What would stop an experienced MP from knowing their seat is potentially marginal, and opting for the list, thereby allowing a newcomer to run in the electorate?

    Could help with better rejuvenation, and means that the experience is still kept within the parties?

  7. Maynard J 7

    Has a joke party ever achieved representation in a modern, or at least recent democracy?

    I was thinking about what would happen if the threshold was dropped low enough that someone like the Bill & Ben party could get in. A living testament to political apathy and ignorance – I can not for the life of me figure out whether that is a fundamentally bad thing or not.

    • Ron 7.1

      In answer to your question – “joke party” seems and apt description of ACT, I’m Jim Anderton Party and Future NZ. Oh – and NZ First, actually.

      • Maynard J 7.1.1

        For joke parties, they take themselves damn seriously. If that is part of the joke, the Hide gets a friggen Oscar in my books.

        • Pascal's bookie 7.1.1.1

          I can not for the life of me figure out whether that is a fundamentally bad thing or not.?

          If they get the votes I say let ’em in. Having the threshold actually encourages these votes as it’s a meaningful protest/signifier of apathy. I’m pretty sure that if the threshold was set at enough votes to earn 1 seat, then there would be less of these votes.

          But even if they get in, so what?

          Similar thing with n8zi parties, and other fringe nutters. If they have the votes then I think we are better off having them involved. These parties would be left to rant on the oppo back bench. Their supporters would at least feel included which, (not that it’s much of a problem in NZ), would prevent them going paranoid and violent.

          There is next to no chance of them having any meaningful influence on policy, any major party that relies on them will be punished accordingly. Even if they held the ballance of power, I think a grand coalition would be more likely than a “(nat or lab) + dangerously weirdo” coalition.

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