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Written By: - Date published: 4:06 pm, November 12th, 2008 - 117 comments
Categories: Deep stuff - Tags:

[I’ll just preface this post by saying I have no love for Winston Peters’ politics and I’m happy to see New Zealand First out of Parliament but, then, I would also be happy to see National out of Parliament and, surely, we shouldn’t base an electoral system on particular outcomes for particular parties, rather, on morality and justice]

According to the preliminary count, 88,000 New Zealanders voted for New Zealand First this election (the number will be nearly 100,000 once specials are added). There will be no MPs representing those voters’ choice of preferred party in this Parliament. In contrast, 78,000 New Zealanders voted for Act but, despie being fewer in number than NZF supporters, their voice will be represented in this Parliament because National voters split their vote in Epsom to ensure Act won the seat. It is largely due to these two factors, the wasting of NZF votes and the inclusion of the smaller number of Act votes, that we have a National/Act government rather than a Labour-led government.

There seems to me no logical reason why Act voters should get their voice heard but NZF voters shouldn’t. It’s one of these ‘quirks’ of MMP. But it is an unnecessary quirk arising from the fact that we have a 5% threshold. So, why do we have a threshold and why is it 5%?

MMP was introduced in post-War Germany, replacing the pre-Nazi fixed list proportional system. It was felt that a threshold of 4% would prevent extremist parties gaining a toehold in the Bundestag. A sensible, if probably ineffective, precaution in a country that had just been wrecked by the Nazis’ actions. But hardly a reason for us to have it. The Royal Commission that recommended we adopt MMP also said we should adopt the 4% threshold as part and parcel of it. For reasons I’ve never seen satisfactorily explained, that was raised to 5% when MMP was enacted.

Since MMP was introduced, nearly 400,000 votes have been wasted on parties that won enough support to justify at least one seat on a proportional basis and two incumbent parties (NZF and the Alliance) have been knocked out of Parliament in that manner. In 1999, the Greens would have been out of Parliament and 103,000 voters would have lost their representaiton if just 3,300 fewer votes had been received by the Greens. All because of the threshold.

Now, people will say that if we didn’t have a threshold then the Bill and Ben Party would have won a seat last election. To which I respond, not really and so what? If there was no threshold fewer people would make protest votes on joke parties. And if they did and the Bill and Ben Party won a seat, who are you and I to say that is wrong? The day we start deciding that some people’s voice shouldn’t be represented because they’ve made a dumb choice is a dangerous day indeed. If we’re going to start deciding some parties are not ‘worthy’ enough to be in Parliament irrespective of the support they receive, we would have to get rid of United Future for starters.

If there were no threshold, it would not be a free-for-all (not that there’s any reason why a free-for-all would be bad). A party would still need to get 20,000-odd votes to get in and most people would still vote for larger parties. As with the introduction of MMP, removing the threshold would make Parliament more diverse and representive of the opinions of voters – surely good things to have in a democracy.

It is a complete injustice that 88,000 votes doesn’t get a voice just because there weren’t 16,000 more people who agreed with them while 78,000 people do get a voice just because 16,000 voters who support a different party tactically supported one of their party’s candidates.

MMP is a great system, the best I’ve yet studied. There is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. But to make MMP fairer we should remove the threshold.

117 comments on “Threshold”

  1. Camryn 1

    I think that zero-threshold is ACT policy too!

  2. John Stevens 2

    Shit happens and these are the rules. But I can also see your point of view.

    DPF also had a post on this and concluded that if we have no threshold the Bill & Ben party would have had the choice!!!!!!!!!!

    Would you be asking and moaning if Nat+ACT+UF got 50.1% but a LAB/GR/MP got to rule if the MP got all 7 seats and created an overhang?

  3. Ari 3

    Welcome to the “repeal the Threshold” club Steve. 😉 Your late fees are waived. ^_^

  4. gingercrush 4

    Lets remove the threshold so Labour gets back into office. That is really what this is about. In reality, the threshold is unfair. But New Zealand will not want that threshold to be so low that irrelevant parties get in. No party either on the left or the right have campaigned for changes in the threshold. Thresholds were always considered though it was suggested to be 4%.

    There is no electoral support for changing the threshold. There is no party saying remove the threshold. Every party this election knew the rules coming in and can’t complain about it. Likewise voters knew the rules and had a choice in whether their votes were wasted or not.

    I agree some change is necessary. But the removal of all thresholds means the major parties are once again beholden to the smaller parties which isn’t a good thing. And will not be liked by the public and thus will never happen.

  5. Like I say, I’m fine with NZF being out of Parliament bu that doesn’t mean the system tht got them out was fair or just.

    As it happens, I’ve been against the threshold since about 2006 when someone who opposed it asked me to justify it and I couldn’t. I think I’ve probably mentioned it before in comments but obviously recent events make it topical and so I wrote about it now.

    Rest assured, I have views on all kinds of things and you’ll hear more about them when something relevant to them comes up

  6. Graeme 6

    A party would still need to get 20,000-odd votes to get in and most people would still vote for larger parties.

    In recent elections, the number of votes needed to get a single seat in a threshold-less Parliament was somewhere under 9000.

  7. Rex Widerstrom 7

    You make a good argument Steve, and one which I find superficially attractive. But as you admit, you can’t simply do a “what if there was no threshold” calculation based on past voting numbers and extrapolate that to suggest the composition of Parliament under such a rule – because the lack of a threshold would change the way people used their vote.

    I know several people who voted “Bill and Ben” (including, though it pains me to say so, two of my children) because none of the other choices appealed to them and the way in which politics occurs in NZ is leaving them feeling increasingly alienated from the process.

    [Still, I can’t be too critical – when I left NZF in 1996 I received a few serious approaches to join other parties. One was the McGillcuddys with whom I’d had some entertaining debates on nz.politics and NZF’s own forum (shut down as soon as I left) and such was my disillusionment with politics, McGillcuddy’s seemed the most attractive at the time].

    I’d like to hear what the public have to say on the “no threshold” idea, which would then give me some real information as to how they’d vote.

    And just to muddy the waters even further – how do you see no-threshold MMP being superior to STV (which is still my de facto preference by a narrow margin due to its making every MP accountable to a defined group of voters)?

  8. gobsmacked 8


    Do grow up. It’s possible to discuss electoral systems without constantly falling back on tribe vs tribe.

    Do you think that all these electorate manipulations under MMP have served the voters well? (Wellington Central, Ohariu-Belmont, Coromandel, Epsom, etc). They are in part due to the high threshold.

    I’d keep it but lower it, and make it two electorates.

  9. ginger. why would they be beholden to small parties (any more than now, if you think they are now).

    Knowing the rules doesn’t make the rules just.

  10. Daveski 10

    I agree with SP that it is great to see Winston First gone but it does raise inconsistencies as he’s noted.

    In terms of arguing for the threshold, I think there would be a school of thought that having more smaller parties would make government more unstable immediately after the election given the need to stitch up coalition parties.

    Had there been Winston-like delays in getting a government formed while we waited for the deals to be done while the financial crisis appears to be looming, I suspect there would be a massive backlash against MMP.

    [the arguments over unstablity are the same ones presented when we first debated getting MMP. Smells like fearmongering to me and leads to the logical rejoinder, wouldn’t just having one party be really really stable? For the record, 6 parties have missed out due to the threshold – Alliance, NZF, Christian Heritage (and Coalition), Kiwi Party, Bill and Ben, and Aotearoa Legislise Cannibis. SP]

  11. Thresholds encourage strategic voting — like “I think the Greens won’t get 5% so I’ll vote Labour”, which distorts the mandate that the vote provides. I really don’t like that. I’d rather vote for the party that most closely aligned with my views, knowing that there’s actually some chance they’ll get in, even if they’re not one of the major, entrenched parties that tend to get electorate seats.

    I also don’t like the FPP-style votes for electorate candidates for similar reasons.

  12. sweetd 12

    The 5% threshold limits the looney fringe from holding the balance of power.


    But why not hold a refferendum on this, and, maybe choose STV? As Rex points out, every vote would then count.

    But, as also pointed out, Labour is still hurting to we will have to endure more of these ‘woe is me’ type posts. Why wasn’t this changed during any of the last nine years?

    [because I had no infuence whatsoever over the Labour-led Governments’ legislative programme. Anyway, just because good things were done doens’t mean that all good things could be done in 9 short years. Oh and if you want to complain about what we choose to write about, you can go and do it on Kiwiblog. To help, I’m happy to ban you if you tell me what to do with my time on me and my mates’ blog again. SP]

  13. Graeme 13

    sorry, a slight error above. The “below 9000” mentioned above was an ssumption based on this year’s pre-specials numbers. When I remembered there were still votes to count, I re-did all the numbers:

    In 2005, one would have required a little under 9450 votes. In 2002 a little over 8100, in 1999 it would have been just over 10550, and in 1996 just over 8000.

  14. “There seems to me no logical reason why Act voters should get their voice heard but NZF voters shouldn’t.”

    Theres no logical reason why ACT voters should get their voice heard at all! 😉

  15. gobsmacked 15


    ACT are the looney fringe? Good call.

  16. lprent 16

    Actually if you wanted to get to what most people are interested in, then probably change MMP so that a electorate votes don’t count unless the party gets 5%.

    That will get rid of a lot of the tail wagging dog syndrome. For instance, no UF, Prog, Act, MP…. In fact just Labour, Greens, and Nat’s. It’d certainly make life less interesting.


  17. the sprout 17

    umm, there is always going to be an implicit threshold, presently set at about 0.8% – unless of course you don’t mind carving up proportions of individual MPs.

    btw, Germany’s MMP system requires a minimum of 3 electorate seats to be won.

  18. Graeme 18

    there is always going to be an implicit threshold, presently set at about 0.8%…

    The implicit threshold is presently set at around 0.4-0.5%, occasionally a little higher.

  19. insider 19

    It’s ironic after months of reading about how the right (and pollsters/commentators) didn’t understand MMP and what a master of coalition politics HC was, and how National had no friends, that in fact the Nats have completely outmanouevred Labour.

    All Labour had to do was sacrifice an electorate to their previously best buddies NZF – as they have to Jim Anderton. They were unwilling to do that and so consigned them to the bin – by design or accident.

    I don’t recall you ever expressing this fundamental concern before. Sorry but this comes across as driven by post election annoyance at the result rather than principle.

  20. Graeme 20

    […For the record, 6 parties have missed out due to the threshold – Alliance, NZF, Christian Heritage (and Coalition), Kiwi Party, Bill and Ben, and Aotearoa Legislise Cannibis. SP]

    Destiny too, in 2005.

  21. Graeme. Oh yeah, St Lague. I was just dividing 2.4 million by 120.

    Hmm, there must be something wrong with our numbers here.

    Say a 2.4 million votes are cast for 120 seats. One party gets 1.2 million, another 1,190,000 and a third 10,000.
    Surely St Lague wouldn’t have a party with less than half a percent of votes taking a seat away from one of the big ones.

    Maybe a 0.8% threshold would fix the problem.

    The other option could be to not trigger party vote proportionality just because a seat is won. That would level the playing field and discourage tactical voting but would still mean a lot of wasted votes.

  22. MikeE 22

    Would you be saying this if ACT was voted out and NZ First in… I doubt it.

    In fact I seem to rememebr a post on here suggesting to vote for Richard Worth to keep ACT out of Parliament.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    Either you want the threshold or you don’t.

    Or do you only want it when it keeps parties out whom you disagree with their policies.

  23. gobsmacked 23

    Breaking news:

    John Key today announced that he was going to form a government with three representatives from the “looney fringe”.

    “While the Greens got over the 5% threshold and are therefore a sane party, I have been talking to three parties that each failed to attract 5% of the vote, and are therefore, according to my dim-witted supporters trolling on the Standard, clinically insane. But I’m sure their leaders will all make excellent Ministers.”

  24. Graeme, right because Destiny got 0.65%. But if you don’t get more than 1 seat’s % of Parliament in your party vote how can you have earned a seat? Damn St Lague

  25. Daveski 25

    SP I don’t get the fearmongering accusation at all.

    It was quite clear from my comments that I was providing an example of the advantages of a higher threshold than I think your proposing.

    Strange that you should see public reaction as being fearmongering.

  26. MikeE. I’m not for the threshold. I was arguing how to use one’s vote most effectively given the exisitng rules, that doens’t mean I thought those rules are optimal.

    So, I can have it two ways when the two ways aren’t mutally exclusive.

  27. sprout that’s 3 seats and 4% or 3 seats or 4%? I’ve looked at it but it’s been a while.

  28. lprent: We have seen very little of the tail wagging the dog. Instead, since MMP was introduced, it is almost always true that the dog has a choice of tails to wag. Examples of one party holding a major party “to ransom” are thin on the ground.

    Steve: I’d be happy to do away with local seats completely PROVIDED political parties – all of them – were legally required to operate internally in a democratic fashion similar to the Greens. In the Green Party, every party member is able to vote on EVERY list candidate AND their ranking. Greens also elect their party leaders administrators and Parliamentary leaders directly. Greens also get to vote on and participate in meaningful policy committees and working groups.

    By contrast, the National party members only get to elect their local candidate and have no say at all over who is on the list or their rank. They also do not get to choose their leader or deputy and do not have any meaningful say or way of defining policy. It has been fascinating for me to see the National party talk about democracy when they clearly do their best to avoid it as much as possible – internally and externally.

    MMP – any voting system, really – should hold parties to a high standard of internal democratic operation.

    If the greens here operated the way National does, I’d never vote for them and would instead support a replacement. Interesting, therefore, that democracy also means little to most National party members…….or they would change it.

  29. Graeme 29

    Say a 2.4 million votes are cast for 120 seats. One party gets 1.2 million, another 1,190,000 and a third 10,000.
    Surely St Lague wouldn’t have a party with less than half a percent of votes taking a seat away from one of the big ones.

    I can’t see a problem with this.

    MMP, and Sainte-Lague in particular, are designed to ensure as proportionate a Parliament as possible. The question basically is:

    which is the more proportional Parliament?
    *the one where Party A gets 60 seats and Party B gets 60 seats, or
    *the one where Party A gets 60 seats, Party B gets 59 seats and Party C gets 1 seat

    Sainte-Lague says the latter option, and standard indices of disproportionality would agree.

  30. George 30

    Steve? what is it with you and losing? sure nobodoy likes losing per se, but every time you lefties come close to being ousted (or in this case acutally), you want to change the rules to suit yourselves. at the risk of being shouted down by pain in the neck pc’ers, you should have played sport when you were younger. it might have shown you some respect for the rules. you can’t argue the point just because you don’t like the score. ever heard of being a gracious loser, might i remind that with the odd, outspoken exception, most New Zealanders on the political right of the spectrum were very gracious in victory. Hmmm, might be why we won then. oh that and maybe you changed the rules after the last election and look where that landed the Labour/greens/progressives.

  31. burt 31

    Steve P.

    Stop moaning. Various authors on the standard have been saying National want to trash MMP because they plan to have a referendum. (give people choice).

    Now that you didn’t get the result you wanted from the best electoral system ever you want to change it. MMP is a crock, it’s always been a crock. A full proportional system is required. Tick the STV box on the referendum – problem solved.

    [burt. how is STV proportional? SP]

  32. burt 32


    Exactly. Last time the ref made a bad call because the naughty ref said parties broke the law over funding – retrospective validation fixed that. Now in opposition the cheats can’t change the rules to validate their cheating so they want the rules changed for next time. Sad sad sad.

  33. Graeme 33

    But if you don’t get more than 1 seat’s % of Parliament in your party vote how can you have earned a seat?

    Because you’ve got more right to it than someone else.

    There are 41 seats:

    Party A earns party votes for 40.4 seats.
    Party B earns party votes for 0.4 seats.

    Who gets it? The options are that either Party A will 0.99% under strength, or party B will 100% under strength. Which is fairer?

  34. Chris S 34

    The other option could be to not trigger party vote proportionality just because a seat is won. That would level the playing field and discourage tactical voting but would still mean a lot of wasted votes.

    Would this mean that every electorate seat earned by a party that is under the threshold would become an overhang seat?

  35. Graeme 35

    how is STV proportional? SP

    It yields proportional results – like MMP, and unlike first past the post.

  36. burt 36

    Steve P.

    Read about it here: Wiki – STV

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

  37. Graeme, you’re right, of course. I just hadn’t thought about it With no threshold at all, you would effectively be rounding up those parties that get between 0.5 and 1 seat’s worth of votes. Don’t really see the problem with that, it’s better than wasting 100,000 votes an election. and it has only occurred twice so far.

    A 0.8% or 1% threshold would eliminate the issue and effectively eliminate the wasted vote too.

  38. Quoth the Raven 38

    insider – Man you’re a fucking genius “I don’t think you guys were talking about this before the election so it must be true.” Have a read of Idiot/Savant’s No Right Turn blog. He was talking about it before.

  39. Graeme. Ah, but STV doesn’t yeild anything like proportional results in practice. Look at Aussie – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_federal_election,_2007

    in practice, STV outcomes are essentially the same as FPP. If you equate a 1 ranking with a tick, it is nearly always the candidates with the top number of 1s that get elected, just as under FPP the top number of ticks gets elected. I had a look at a large number of STV elections substituting 1s for ticks and the results were exactly the same (we can haggle over how fair it is to equate a one with a tick but I believe it’s valid most of the time).

  40. burt 40

    Steve P.

    MMP is a great system, the best I’ve yet studied.

    Yet 10 minutes ago you had no idea how STV worked… Do you always only study the things you have already decided are good ?

  41. Janet 41

    Key is doing something very risky with MMP. He is setting up the Maori Party to be the fall guy if/when his government loses popularity. When the government is threatened with collapse he will blame it on MMP, just before a referendum on MMP. So what happens? – FPP wins the referendum.

    With that Hollow Man Stephen Joyce as his right hand man and chief adviser, any devious plot is possible.

    The other thing I expect is for there to gradually be less openness and more secrecy. How long before the weekly press conferences stop (as happened with Shipley)? Key is already refusing to tell the public the true state of the books and the Maori Party are not revealing the terms of their deal. They are just doing rapid hui to ask Maori to ‘trust us’.
    Watch this trend continue.

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist – have just been watching politics for a long time.

  42. Burt I know how STV works. That’s how I know, in spite of what people think, it is not a proportional system.

  43. Carol 43

    Janet, I don’t know if such calculations are in the equation, but they don’t need to be for a deal with the MP to be beneficial to Key/National. It stops Key being dictated to by ACT. OTOH he appears to be offering the entrenchment of Maori seats and the Foreshore & Seabed Act are on the table. Alternatively, no deal between the MP & National could mean the Maori seats are abolished – really this would be a deal the MP can’t refuse, and would earn a lot of Kudos for the MP amongst Maori.

  44. Felix 44

    burt if you can’t tell whether a question is asking for “the” answer or “your” answer then I think you have bigger problems than what type of electoral system we use.

    Like how to tie your shoelaces, or how to walk and breathe without choking. Unless you were just being a cock, in which case I take it back.

  45. jbc 45

    Steve, the Aussies use Instant Runoff (single winner) which necessarily does not deliver a proportional result like STV could.

  46. sweetd 46

    “[because I had no infuence whatsoever over the Labour-led Governments’ legislative programme. Anyway, just because good things were done doens’t mean that all good things could be done in 9 short years. Oh and if you want to complain about what we choose to write about, you can go and do it on Kiwiblog. To help, I’m happy to ban you if you tell me what to do with my time on me and my mates’ blog again. SP]”

    Why do you ban everyone who has an opinion different to you? Have you ever thought of arguing your case in an attempt to bring them over to your side?

    [lprent: That isn’t the objective. What we’re after is getting a range of informed and articulate people arguing their viewpoints with each other. That allows events and ideas to be examined from all sides. Of course you have to be able to argue…. Banning is very seldom for directly based on opinions. It is for expressing the opinions in a manner likely to lose other opinions from the site – ie bad behaviour.]

  47. Pretty simple really, if you can’t articulate it in a polite manner your not welcome.

  48. burt 48

    I’ve worked out why communist and socialist countries produce so many great chess players. It’s no wonder people in these self serving regimes choose chess as their hobby. In chess both sides play by the same rules and if the person who expected to win looses they don’t rewrite the rules retrospectively or insist the rules need to be changed before the re-match.


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

    I don’t like MMP, I like FPP less. I just can’t understand how before the election MMP was the best thing since sliced bread and now that it didn’t deliver the result Steve P. (and possibly 40% of the population) wanted it now should be changed. Hopeless case of sour grapes. So Labour lost the election… Well tough – that is democracy.

  49. burt 49


    Steve P. also said;

    Graeme, you’re right, of course. I just hadn’t thought about it…

    So has he studied it and not thought about it? Why do you want to fight Steve P’s battles for him – do you think he is not capable of defending his position himself?

  50. sweetd 50


    I have always been polite, but still this spectre of banning hangs in the air. Might explain why the left lost.

    [lprent: You aren’t always polite (not that I particularly care), and sometimes your behavior veers at the edge. But bans are there to protect the diversity of site’s comment section and to ensure that we have authors. It is a private site after all and you are expected to stay within the rather broad bounds of what is acceptable. The certain degree of uncertainty about what cause s banning is to ensure that people self-moderate rather than litigate. Usually there has to be a pretty good reason to ban from a consistent set of behaviours or hitting a standard pattern of troll behaviour. The nett result is that there is a substantial range of opinion engaging with each other – which is part of the objective.

    Besides I just scanned your identity comments (6 pages of them). You haven’t actually been banned – just lower grade actions. Like having your name amended and numerous notes by various moderators with a few warnings about banning.]

  51. Graeme 51

    Graeme. Ah, but STV doesn’t yeild anything like proportional results in practice. Look at Aussie – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_federal_election,_2007

    in practice, STV outcomes are essentially the same as FPP. If you equate a 1 ranking with a tick

    Burt I know how STV works. That’s how I know, in spite of what people think, it is not a proportional system.

    No. STV is a proportional system. Australian Federal elections are conducted under two systems – the House elections are preferential vote (and thus not proportional, as you describe), and the Senate elections are under STV (and proportional).

    There are members of the Green Party in the Australian Senate (close to proportional – they earned 3.6 seats, an got 3); there are none in the Australian House – despite there being more seats, and a similar vote level.

  52. Janet 52

    Carol – I think the gambler Key and associates will be playing a lot of brinkmanship. I hear the Greens are advising the MP to be very careful in their dealings with National – I hope they heed this.

  53. burt 53


    Here is some info here on the different systems in use in Aussie.

    The election of the house of representatives is not an STV election. It is very much an FPP style home grown thing-a-me-bob. But since Steve P. knows all about STV he knew that and was trying to trip me up I guess, luckily I didn’t fall for it.

  54. marco 54

    The overhang in MMP does not create a proportional parliament either. If your tinkering with the threseholds then lets fix the overhang whilst we are at it.

    MMP Option 2: an upper an lower house.

    Electorate Vote forms the lower house and gives electorates a voice.

    The Party Vote forms the upper house, making it truely representative of the public mood.

    Each house’s powers would need to be decided upon and that would take a fair amount of debate but I’m sure if enough people thrash around ideas we could come up with something that works.

  55. sweetd 55


    the Greens lost out big in this election. How long have they been in parliament now, and how many times have they been in government? Their colours were nailed to the labour mast, and as such, have zero voice in a National led government. Maybe the Maori Party should advise the Greens.

  56. ‘Mixed Member’ seems to me to be a problem. It arises obviously from the two types of elected members. Given how I’ve heard so-called list members elected via the party vote rated as “less than” individual electorate members, allow me posit elimination of such inequalities by having proportionality set around the sum vote of an electorate MP.

    For example, a couple of results I looked over had electorate votes made at around 31,000. Set the minimum overall per party vote to access parliament at 90,000 and we end up with 3 MPs for that party.

    This could also offer a solution for say a specific electorate party.

    Just a thought.. the point is whether it is just..?

  57. Leftie 57

    In actuality the Greens would not have missed out on seats in the ’99 election by the margin you cited, Jeanette won the Coromandel electorate that year.

    However, the threshold is too high and 4% would be a better threshold to settle on. Your argument for no threshold has no bearing and your rationale is lacking. I seriously doubt that people who vote for the Bill & Ben party and other joke parties would cease to do so if the threshold were to be removed.

    Had the threshold not been in place I doubt that the Bill & Ben party would have put themselves on the ballot in fear of being elected. No reason for or against a removal of the threshold, merely a punt.

    4% of the vote is a satisfactory requirement. Anything less would therefore create arguments in the case where one party received, for eg., 0.4% more than another and managed to receive an extra seat. How many ‘quirks’ are we prepared to give way to in the event of removing another?

  58. sux2bu 58

    You moan that nat voters split their vote to get ACT in epsom but apparently have no problem with labour splitting their vote in Wigram for Jimberton’s Regressives. Hypocrisy and sour grapes is not a good look.

  59. Janet 59

    On the contrary the Greens are winners in that they are still in parliament and growing. Consider NZ First, the Alliance, and after the next election there will be no more United Future and probably not Act either.
    The Greens are patient, untainted, and their time is coming. See Gordon Campbell’s post.

    They are certainly not going to fall for the fatal charms of the smiling assassin.

  60. Ianmac 60

    I have read the discussion and I am impressed. I know too little to contribute- just watch and learn. (Sorry and baffled to watch Burt and Sweetd, and George writing about something else altogether.) This is a discussion away from Party politics and one about ideas and practical implications. Keep it up.

  61. No threshold?? Then you’d get Poland in 1991, despite the argument that people wouldn’t vote for joke parties. (Where’s the evidence for that people wouldn’t vote for joke parties?)

    In the first totally free elections the Poles didn’t have a threshold. 29 parties won parliamentary seats including the Polish Beer-Lovers’ Party with 16 seats. Funnily enough, there is now a threshold of 5%, except for ethnic minority parties.

    I suggest lowering the threshold here a little — say to 4% — and doing away with the rule that gaining a seat sees all the party votes counted. That such a rule would have changed the outcome of the election last week is completely coincidental.

    PS, Steve, I *can* justify the threshold and therefore I support it. Think of the Polish Beer-Lovers’ Party and join me in supporting the threshold. Which is not to say that Polish beer isn’t perfectly good.

  62. had enough 62

    “It is a complete injustice that 88,000 votes doesn’t get a voice just because there weren’t 16,000 more people who agreed with them while 78,000 people do get a voice just because 16,000 voters who support a different party tactically supported one of their party’s candidates.”

    But its totally ridiculous when you need to get over 300,000 signatures on a petition to get a non-binding referendum. A black mark on real democracy.

  63. keith 63

    Peter: what happened in Poland? did they make decisions with 29 parties or did everything grind to halt?

    [lprent: You’re still banned for another week and a half. But I’ll let this through – I want to know the answer myself]

  64. Pascal's bookie 64

    “A black mark on real democracy.”

    meh. If the referenda were written so that the answers told us something definitive and they were binding, maybe so, but as it stands, not so much.

    You need to get 300 000 sigs to trigger a meaningless ballot on crap questions that can be taken to mean whatever barrow you care to push. The horror.

  65. sweetd 65


    On what grounds do you think ACT would not make it to parliament at the 2011 elections. Hide increased is majority many times this election over 2005; which in tern gave security to all those people voting ACT in the nationwide party vote. By contrast, there was no certainity that the Greens would make it over the 5%. Epson voters understand MMP.

    Secondly as for untainted, your last remaining goodwill vote is in Ginette Fitsimmons (sp, my bad, too much cab sav); once she is gone how do you think you will be able to in all good measure hang on to the ‘green’ banner when all you scream is socialist policies?

  66. burt 66


    A discussion away from party politics… Are you a comedian?

    Here is Steve P. describing how to get Jolly Jim elected.

    Vote smart: Progressives and Wigram. In this post he describes how Jim won’t get above the threshold and how under MMP people can work around that.

    Yet, he then says we should change MMP because of thresholds. So he wants it both ways. Typical lefty, work the system… oh that didn’t work – change the system.

    What is wrong with working within the rules and accepting the outcome?

  67. mike 67

    There will no threshold after the referendum SP, in fact there will be no more MMP.

  68. Pascal's bookie 68

    sweet, green politics are about more than what you think they are. The ‘socialism’ as you see it is an intrinsic part. Your question is akin to asking how can ACT claim to want growth when all they blabber about is capitalism.

  69. jam 69

    Ah the left.

    They don’t like it up em.

    The current system was all fine and good while Labour was putting together its coalitions and arrangements on supply and confidence, even accusing National of being anti MMP.

    But the moment the system works for National and all of a sudden, it sucks.

    Funny that.

  70. burt 70


    You mentioned the upper house idea earlier. I think this is the answer. The problem we have in NZ is that there is no upper house and the Governor General is not a workable check point.

    Arguable law like the EFA would never be passed in NZ if we had an upper house. An upper house would say ‘send it back when the Human Rights Commission are not complaining’. or ‘send it back when the electoral commission are not saying it will be extremely difficult to interpret’. The GG waves it by and bang – we (the collective we – the country) are stuck with the will of a self serving govt.

    The fact that Goff now suggests the EFA should be re-worked via a bi-partisan approach with two rounds of consultation (which is what National were fighting for in the first place) shows just how out of touch the Labour party had become.

    Unless the Govenor General is going to become a one person dictator over assent of legislation then the govt de-jour has complete unfettered control of this country.

    Chilling for some to think over the last nine years, chilling for some to think about today. I think it’s always chilling, I support ACT but I don’t think I’d like Rodney (or Sir Roger) whipping their party to support them with complete unfettered control of everything.

    The upper house (IMHO) must be proportionally elected.

  71. Dean 71

    “And if they did and the Bill and Ben Party won a seat, who are you and I to say that is wrong? The day we start deciding that some people’s voice shouldn’t be represented because they’ve made a dumb choice is a dangerous day indeed.”

    Right. A joke party is representative of some peoples voices, and it’d be fair enough to let them potentially hold the balance of power because otherwise you’re disenfranchising the population?

    Give me a break. You’re just sore that you lost. I don’t seem to recall you posting about this before you lost, but I’m guessing you were too involved in defending other things the general populace didn’t like – for instance the anti smacking bill. I’m sure you remember that one, because it was championed by your precious Greens. The Greens, who polled at 10 per cent but didn’t even get close to that. Maybe that ought to tell you something, but I’m not holding my breath.

    “If we’re going to start deciding some parties are not ‘worthy’ enough to be in Parliament irrespective of the support they receive, we would have to get rid of United Future for starters”

    Why is the requirement to win an electorate seat if you get below 5% such a burden? Is it because even Fitzsimmons couldn’t do it this year in the Coromandel? Is it becase the left are really, really bad at winning electorate seats? I mean, look at this years results. They even lost the electorates they haven’t lost in decades. Will you learn from this? I think it’s a safe bet you won’t.

    I’m also really enjoying your conveniently bad memory regarding the Royal Commisions recommendation of a 4% threshold instead of a 5%, because of couse you’re very conveniently leaving out the other condition they recommended to go along with this – the abolition of the Maori seats.

    To say that “For reasons I’ve never seen satisfactorily explained” and expect anyone to believe it is just more spin, Clinton. Perhaps you ought to go and protest outside some more National party gatherings – you’re really good at that.

  72. sweetd 72


    how is the environment a core component of socialism? From what i have seen of communist states the environment was destroyed as a result of socialism. Growth and capitalism go hand in glove. Where have you been for the last half decade?

  73. burt 73


    Oh, it’s ironic isn’t it that the very culture that keeps the left in power (envy, tall poppy bashing and knocking the rich) is what makes an upper house unacceptable to NZ.

    The perception that rich prick MP’s want to double their numbers and make us vote twice for them – F###k them – tick “NO” on the referendum.

    I would tick yes, but that’s not because I want more MP’s, it’s because our parliament is a loose cannon as a half Westminster system. An upper house is the cost of a real democracy.

  74. Dean 74

    “Yet, he then says we should change MMP because of thresholds. So he wants it both ways. Typical lefty, work the system oh that didn’t work – change the system.

    What is wrong with working within the rules and accepting the outcome?”

    It needs revision because his chosen affiliation lost. And lost badly, too. It’s really quite simple.

  75. Jeez – look at all of these righties. In order:

    Jam – you strike me as another rightie who can’t run a decent argument and so resorts to having a troll. Guess what chump – your crew are in power and trolling ain’t gonna work anymore…

    Dean – are you just really really angry ‘cos bro from where I’m sitting it looks like your trying to hold the standard to some moral yardstick that is absurd. Did you not get enough love from mum and dad…?

    Burt – you’re a useless drunk fool. Now you don’t have Helen Clark to blame for your inability to conduct yourself as a grown man what are you going to do? Really. I’d like to know…

  76. Rex Widerstrom 76

    northpaw: That’s an interesting perspective. So you’re saying that the proportionality of Parliament would be determined by the number of votes gained by the respective parties’ electorate candidates? We’d go back to one vote, but no vote would be wasted because every vote for, say, a Labour candidate in a safe National seat would contribute to Labour’s overall seat allocation? And that the extra MPs would be chosen from a list, still?

    Steve Withers:

    I’d be happy to do away with local seats completely PROVIDED political parties – all of them – were legally required to operate internally in a democratic fashion similar to the Greens.

    While I take the opposite view – that every MP ought to feel themselves directly accountable to a group of electors because it encourages accountability – I agree wholeheartedly with the general thrust of your proposition. The Greens are the only wholly democratic party in Parliament, yet we should accept nothing less than that all parties operate the same way.

    I find the legal argument – that no laws can be applied to parties because they are (usually unincorporated) “private organisations” (as was raised in my High Court action against NZ First) – laughable. So long as they’re putting themselves forward for our votes they could easily be required to meet certain standards of accountability in candidate selection. After all, there are rules applied to other aspects of their operations, such as the amount they spend on advertising!

    Transparency in their internal election processes needs to be one of the outcomes of any review process, no matter what voting system we end up with.

  77. Lew 77

    Most of my comment on this matter is on the other thread: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/campaign-to-save-mmp-underway/

    The main thing I have to reiterate is that voter behaviour is important. Tweak electoral systems and you change voter behaviour. Lower the threshold and you neuter most of the joke parties. The PPPP example raised here is an exception because its popularity came about from cynicism about rapid electoral reforms. The case doesn’t apply in NZ.

    All the whining that people only want to change the threshold because the left lost is bullshit. For one thing, it wouldn’t have changed the result of this election in terms of government formation – NZF would have still been in parliament, but National would still have formed a government. The point is about not denying people electoral voice.


  78. RedLogix 78

    how is the environment a core component of socialism? From what i have seen of communist states the environment was destroyed as a result of socialism. Growth and capitalism go hand in glove. Where have you been for the last half decade?

    One sentence at a time:

    1. The environment is essentially a public good. Left ungoverned it is either exploited by anyone with access (the tragedy of the commons) or is expropriated the wealthy. The only workable way to manage the biosphere on which we all totally depend, is for the government to regulate and manage in trust for everyone. Any other arrangement results in either destruction or exclusion. Only socialism is built on the core notion of equity for all, and promotes government on behalf of all.

    2. The communist states were not socialist. They may have had some policies in common, but their core principle was totalitarianism.

    3. Growth and capitalism may well go hand in glove. But so do massive crashes of the business cycle.

    Where have you been the last half a year?

  79. sweetd 79


    Farrrck, where have you been!?!?!?!?1

    1. Who is this public, and what is the good? Big strawman, burn.

    2.The communist states were not socialist. Oxymoron.

    3. Growth and capitalism may well go hand in glove. But so do massive crashes of the business cycle. Yes, and left alone the market corrects itself. But seldom do the socialitsts leave the market alone. Leave alone what you don’t undertsand. A free manrket is that. freedom.

  80. Pascal's bookie 80

    sweet, wrong way round. Greens see things holistically.

    The parts of their agenda that you are calling socialism are there because they view unfettered capitalism as unsustainable (environmentally if you like, but it’s holistic). The ‘economic’, ‘labour’ and ‘social’ policy are not something separate to the ‘environmental’ bits.

    That’s why it’s silly to tell them that they need to focus on ‘green’ or ‘environmental’ policies and forget about what you consider to be unrelated ‘socialism’. All that is telling them is that you don’t understand green politics.

    I’m not a green by the way, so if your still confused by this there are probably better people to ask, or just go read some green politics. They are not shy about explaining themselves at length 😉

  81. sux2bu 81

    Goff pretends to be repentent about the EFA and suddenly it’s fashionable for the left to pretend to be concerned about democracy.

  82. Dean 82

    “Jeez – look at all of these righties. In order:”

    Sod, I’m not a rightie. I didn’t vote for them this election.

    “are you just really really angry ‘cos bro from where I’m sitting it looks like your trying to hold the standard to some moral yardstick that is absurd. Did you not get enough love from mum and dad ?”

    The left has lost it’s way, and with you as a proponent I find it difficult to take seriously people who like to rage against the kiwiblog right.

  83. burt 83

    Steve P.

    With regard to the; Campaign to save MMP underway post you made just a few days ago, will you saving MMP by lowering the threshold or by keeping it exactly like it is?

  84. Pascal's bookie 84

    sux2bu Could you do us a favour and pretend to be smart? tnx.K.bai

  85. RedLogix 85


    Who is this public, and what is the good?

    There about 6.6 billion people on the planet. A word for all of these people is the “public”. I’m kind of reluctant to be pointing out something this obvious, but in your case it seems necessary.

    The “public good” covers all those things essential for your physical and social survival, from very basis things like oxygen, water, a livealble temperature range… through to social goods such as a legal, fiscal, standards and technical systems (like the internet we are using right now), education, health and so on. We actually pay directly very little for our constant daily use of these resources.

    The communist states were not socialist.

    As I stated, they had some elements in common. Having actually lived and worked in Russia (post Soviet era), I know that the Soviet state had many valuable aspects, universal and excellent education, health care, and welfare. Free housing (and heating), low cost, frequent running public transport meant that most people had no particular need or desire to own a car. I even tried one evening the last surviving example of the system of low cost cafeterias for the indigent and very poor that ensured no-one starved. (It rates as the worst meal I have ever paid for, but for about 25c I had a full stomach.)

    I also saw a great deal of heart breaking poverty that was the result of the destruction of this system. Poverty is one thing is a warm country, it is a grim hell at -20 degC.

    At the same time there was no doubt that few Russians mourned the passing of the totalitarian Soviet state. “To freedom!” was the toast that still went with most shots of vodka. Yet the same person would moments later express his despair at how the society they were living in was crumbling into ruin all around them.

    Having seen it face to face and lived in it, I can absolutely assure you that there is a huge difference between totalitarianism (which the Soviet state practised from the moment of the October Revolution onwards) and social democracy. I have stood on the very spot where the Romanovs were murdered by Jakob Sverdlov and his crew of thugs. It never got much better than that. Later I had the remarkable opportunity to visit effort to visit Magadan in Far Eastern Siberia, and stand briefly in a bitter wind on the “Highway of Bones” that most desolate spot in all of humanity’s cruel history.

    So spare me the crap about totalitarianism.

    As for “markets correcting themselves”. Actually in the end they all fail. Every market and every fiat currency inevitably fails. They all have.

  86. sweetd 86


    I am really trying to understand what you wrote. Please help me understand.

    If I understand, Greens think capitalism is unsustainable. What have we been doing (this capitalsim craze) for the last 400 or so odd years? How long does the model have to run before it becomes unsustainable? If we include the environmental part, then NZ was founded on the sheep and cows back. If farming was unsustainable, then wouldn’t we have seen this before now? NZ has been a farming nation for more than 150 years.

    I don’t understand your second paragraph at all. I want to save the environment. I want a strong economy. How many species have died as a result of farming? Why is the sheep not on the endangered species list? Farming is good for the economy and for the environment. Why should farmenrs want to destroy the environment for short term gain? Most farmers i know are multi generational, that is that want to leave someting for thier children and grand children.

    It looks like I am still confused.

  87. Pascal's bookie 87

    Like I said, I’m not really the guy to ask. But think of it like this:

    In a green view, if the physical environment is suffering and being depleted, that will have long term fatal costs on the economy. Likewise, if the economy is lurching from boom to bust, people will not have enough economic security to think long term about their environmental practices.

    They view the world holistically. That is, you can’t separate environmental policy from economic or social policy. There are too many feedback loops. It’s all interconnected. Like I said, if you want to know what they think, and why they advocate the economic policies they do, I’m sure you will be told at g.blog or frogblog.

    Not everyone that votes for the green party is a green in this sense. But there is no way that the green party is going to abandon part of it’s green philosophy to capture people that don’t like it. It’s not what they are about.

  88. sweetd 88


    Many evils have been commited under the guise of Public Good. Again, who is the public and what is the good. Don’t assume. Why do you speak for the public and who decides it is good? At the very least it is a socialsit term to envelope all things it wants.

    On you third and remaining paragraphs I appreciate and found interesting your recollections of life post communism. What is show is the unfortunate change from an unrealistic socialist to realistic capitalist system.

    “As for “markets correcting themselves’. Actually in the end they all fail. Every market and every fiat currency inevitably fails. They all have.”

    What markets have failed? What is your defination of failure? As far as I have seen thay have all recovered, as is the want of the ‘free’ market.

  89. sweetd 89

    Why are my comments under moderation?

    [lprent: Troll trap. I have words commonly misused by trolls with limited imagination sitting in a auto-moderation system. This saves the moderators quite a lot of time. It means that the morons with trite phrases lifted from other sites tend to get auto-moderated on one or more of their first messages. This usually slows them down and they go off to the dinky sites about how they have been moderated by the standard and stop leaving comments here. Thus it keeps everyone happy (ie a variant of the credo of the stainless steel rat).

    It is a bit of a pain when the words and phrases are being used correctly and in context. But IMO (and who else counts) it saves everyone a lot of aggravation. Now that the election is over I’ll start building some more sophisticated code for trolls (ie part of the troll emulation project)]

  90. sweetd 90


    appreciate your answer.

  91. Quoth the Raven 91

    sweetd – How do you not understand that farming is bad for the environment? Unbelievable. Ripping down a forest and replacing it with a monoculture does not a stable ecosystem make. Yes agriculture is essential, but it does do a lot of damage. This is really basic stuff you don’t even need highschool biology to understand this stuff. You remove a forest or whatever, which has immense biodiversity replant with a monoculture that has little. You remove the crop for selling, but anything you take from the field you’ve taken from the soil. If you don’t add anything back to the soil it will be unable to grow anything in years to come. So you have to keep adding stuff to the soil. Synthetic fertilizers are added which leach causing eutrophiction of waterways etc or are denitrified and result in nasty pollutants and some of it will reach the plants. Then you have herbicides and pesticides, not to mention methane from livestock, soil salination, water pollution, issues with water retention, erosion (have you ever heard of the dust bowl?) and so on with things I don’t know of. I don’t think there is anything more environmentally damaging than agricultre, but that’s probably just because of the scale of it. You can make agriculture less damaging and that’s what green polcies are about.
    I had to reread what you wrote in that paragraph a few times before it sank in This is basic really basic stuff. I don’t know how you’ve never come across it before.

  92. Janet 92

    We did have an upper house. It was a sort of expensive retirement home for ex National Party MPs. It was not representative, or an efficient way to critique policies. I think it was even abolished by a National Government. We also had occasional royal commissions. Membership ditto, with the addition of a token woman (probably the wife of ex NPMP), and maybe a gesture to youth by appointing someone under 50.

    I like the idea of citizen juries or something much more grass roots based to look at contentious legislation.

  93. DD 93

    I favour lowering the threshold to say 4% and making it mandatory for additional members. So if a party gets an electorate seat but only 3.5% of the vote then they only get the electorate MP. But if they get 4% then they can bring in the extras.

  94. burt 94

    Steve P.

    Any chance you could answer the question I asked here.


  95. Burt – any chance you’re gonna answer the question I asked here:


  96. burt 96


    I’ll answer it after Steve P returns to this thread. He ran away after it became apparent he knows sweet stuff all about electoral systems yet he plans to save MMP. Meanwhile, keep up the personal attacks – it’s what I love about you – you are all noise and no substance.

  97. burt. here’s your answer. you’re banned for a week for being too dumb, it’s dragging the whole place down. I’m not part of the Campaign to Save MMP, i was reporting on it, so your question doesn’t make any sense.

    I didn’t run away, i went offline.

  98. Does he get to answer my question before he goes or do I have to wait a week?

  99. Billy 99

    Banned for being dumb! This sets an unfortunate precedent but I look forward to it being applied in an even-handed manner.

  100. Robinsod 100

    I’m safe. I only ever get banned for being rude…

  101. Graeme. The Aussie senate is different because you’ve got multi-member seats. And, of course, over 95% of people vote above the line, opting for a pre-chosen list of preferences decided by a party – the party’s put their candidates first and their allies’ next and their opponents last. It doesn’t function as STV, it functions as a list system and is proportional but only because it’s got multi-member seats (and even then only because there are a large number of members per seat, 10).

    Instant-run off voting is STV used for single member electorates and it doesn’t yeild proportional outcomes.

    If you look at NZ local elections that use STV, there is no difference between the people that get the most 1s and the winners – if we assume most people would tick instead of give their 1 if the election were FPP then there is no difference on outcomes.

    ‘sod. he can wait.

    Billy. Burt has set a pretty low bar.

  102. Anon 102

    I see that there has been a lot of discussion on this already which I haven’t the time to go through in detail so apologies if I am making a suggestion already discussed.

    I suggest a 0.8% threshold ie. one 120th of parliament. And I suggest that only parties meeting that threshold be eligible to have seats allocated to them by the St Lague formula.

    I see two major advantages of this:
    1) The system becomes more truly proportional. Get 2.4% of the vote, get three MPs. No questions there.
    2) The electorate means you can bring in MPs requirement becoe immaterial.

    And for everyone worried about Bill and Ben, they would not have recieved a seat in parliament on account of recieving less than 120th of the vote.

    The other tweak I would make to MMP would be to use the German provisions regarding the overhang (unberhang). When there is an overhang the size of parliament increases to both accomodate the electorate MPs and maintain proportionality.

    Heoi ano ra.

  103. Graeme 103

    If there aren’t multi-member electorates it’s not really STV, but alternative vote or instant run-off. When someone is suggesting STV for New Zealand they should be assumed to be proposing multi-member constituencies, which are proportional if people vote above the line, and proportional (but in a slightly different way) if they vote below the line too.

    Our mayoral elections certainly aren’t proportional (each city only gets one mayor), but DHB and council elections are. Yes, the person who gets the most 1’s usually gets elected, but a bunch of other people get elected too – and not always those who would have been elected based on 1’s (e.g. my council ward saw Jack Ruben miss out on a seat).

  104. Uroskin 104

    Looks like National and the Maori Party have at least the MMP system in common as bogeyman. National wants the return to shire rule under FPP and the Maori party was never dependent on MMP to win seats.
    Reasons enough to advocate abolition of the Maori seats AND the pakeha electorate seats and move to a complete list system with a 0.8% threshold, similar to the Netherlands and Israel. No vote is wasted there so no need to waste your vote on a joke party either.

  105. Rex Widerstrom 105


    Do you happen to know how parties in the Netherlands and Israel rank their lists, in that case? Is it, as the Greens (and Greens alone) do in NZ and give every member a vote, or some other way?

  106. northpaw 106

    Rex Widerstrom,
    We’d go back to one vote, but no vote would be wasted because every vote for, say, a Labour candidate in a safe National seat would contribute to Labour’s overall seat allocation?

    Candidates stand in electorates for their parties. Yes, I know they do so now, but now if an electorate candidate loses all votes in support are lost, too. A lot more efficient would be to fuse the two – party and electorate. One tick, not two, as you infer. Yet winner takes the individual electorate ‘seat’ and all votes count towards a national majority (or sum as determined by participating parties). If that’s clearer and/or the same as you describe then so be it..

    And that the extra MPs would be chosen from a list, still?

    Yes, something suitable to the parties who, with their ‘seat’ winners must allocate according to needs per the summed votes.

  107. swanstep 107

    Graeme’s example above doesn’t work: plug in any vote values for the party percentages he mentions, say, 404, 4, 2 (the last to cover the .2% remaining).

    The first party’s 41st St.L. quotient is then 4.988, i.e., > 4. The party with .4% of the vote doesn’t get its first seat unless parliament expands to at least 51 or 52 seats (depending on how ties are handled)

    More generally, Graeme’s ‘100% lack of representation shock! horror!’ reasoning does not correspond to St.L. at all: St.L is unbiased between small and large parties, and in two party cases it always agrees with the ’round exact seat shares to nearest integers’ algorithm.(Theorems are available in the usual places) So if you think it’s shocking for a 40.6 exact seats party to get the 41st whole seat (because the 40.6 party will benefit ‘so little’ and the .4 party ‘loses so much’), well, get over it. If parliament has a million+1 seats, then a million+.6 seat-earning party gets all the seats and the .4 seat party none. O the humanity.

    St.L. *does* minimize the voter-weighted (squares of) [(allocated seats)÷(party votes)] [total seats÷total votes]. That was the key result of the original 1910 paper. But that doesn’t correspond to Graeme’s gloss – in effect voter-weighted degrees of over-representation in possible allocations are also considered (hence the lack of bias).

    St.L’s mathematics benefits small parties on some occasions but helps large parties on others. In 2005 Labour was entitled to (something like) 49.95 seats and got 50. Fine. But if 2000 Maori party voters had spread their party votes evenly between, say, the Progressives and NZ First, and 120 Green voters had voted for Labour, and everything else had stayed the same, then Labour would have been entitled to 49.98 seats but St.L would have given Labour a 51st seat, ’rounding’ 49.98 up to 51. Woo hoo.

  108. Graeme 108

    swanstep, I think it fairly obvious that I was exaggerating to make the point.

  109. swanstep 109

    It’s not just an exaggeration. Someone asked above:

    ‘Say a 2.4 million votes are cast for 120 seats. One party gets 1.2 million, another 1,190,000 and a third 10,000. Surely St Lague wouldn’t have a party with less than half a percent of votes taking a seat away from one of the big ones.’

    And you/Graeme replied:

    ‘I can’t see a problem with this…… The question basically is:
    which is the more proportional Parliament?
    *the one where Party A gets 60 seats and Party B gets 60 seats, or
    *the one where Party A gets 60 seats, Party B gets 59 seats and Party C gets 1 seat
    Sainte-Lague says the latter option, and standard indices of disproportionality would agree.’

    But that’s false. In the case sketched Party B and Party C have the same 120th St.L quotient,10000. The preference for 60:59:1 allocation over a 60:60:0 allocation is settled by whatever policy one has for breaking ties, and not by St L. itself.

    And then you/Graeme suggested that St.L expresses the idea that a small party’s fractional seat shares have more right to be honored than large parties fractions.

    But that’s false. Once things are in seats÷votes terms, St.L plays an absolutely straight bat: all fractional entitlements are treated the same way, and no special consideration is given to small parties’ fractions. St.L. is, in fact, the only series-of-divisors rule that is so nicely neutral – that’s a principal reason to use it.

    The only point that was needed in the original discussion was the simpler one that half a seat quota often ends up being the effective threshold under St.L.. No judgment about big parties’ half seats vs. small parties’ half seats should have been entered. Sorry to be pedantic. If it wasn’t someone who’s normally v. reliable and careful making the mistake, I wouldn’t bother insisting on the clarification/correction!

  110. Uroskin 110

    Rex: re party political list selection in The Netherlands.
    What I could find in a quick search, it’s the party members who order the list ( – in Dutch, unfortunately) but the voters have the opportunity to choose either to vote for the list, or for a candidate on the list so his/her position could move up (so-called preference vote) and get elected at the expense of a higher ranked candidate with fewer preference votes. It’s not a ranking system (you only get one preference vote) but both party members (before the election) and voters (during the election) have influence on which list candidates get in.
    I think this would be a a good thing for list-only NZ elections too.
    What many parties do is put a prominent person, who is not really into going into politics, at the bottom of their list (the “list pusher”) to attract votes – the party leader at the top of the list is usually called the “list puller”.
    The Netherlands have 19 electoral districts to cater for regional parties, but the main parties usually submit the same candidate list to all 19, with proportional seat allocation.

    Israel’s electoral system for the Knesset has one electoral district with a 2% threshold, but they have separate a ballot for Prime Minister – which seems to me a silly aspect which we shouldn’t adopt: how would Helen Clark cope as PM with a right wing majority on he House? Or vice versa?

  111. Phil 111

    The other tweak I would make to MMP would be to use the German provisions regarding the overhang (unberhang). When there is an overhang the size of parliament increases to both accomodate the electorate MPs and maintain proportionality.

    In the case of the Maori Party here, we would end up with a parliament of over 200 members… I don’t see that being acceptable to anyone.

  112. Rex Widerstrom 112

    Uroskin – thanks for that. I like the Netherlands method… seems to be the best of everything on face value. I’ll bookmark your comment so I have a starting point for further thinking. Ta 🙂

    northpaw – also intriguing. With the added value of simplicity (or at least it seems simple to me, so I’m assuming voters would understand it clearly).

    Damn, this has got me even more excited about the propects of a proper review of MMP. If only we’d had a more flexible process than the one that brought us MMP, where we were presented with a choice of ready-made systems and asked to pick.

    Off-the-rack is rarely as elegant as tailor-made.

  113. Uroskin 113

    Thanks Rex. One more point I’d like to make is that Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium, who all run versions of proportional systems have no trouble with Government coalitions involving both main parties: their current Governments are Conservative/Labour coalitions – and they are not more or less stable than coalitions between one major party and a dog-wagging tail midget.
    If the economic situation is going to be dire, it may be an idea to look at that configuration for NZ too, as Fran O’Sullivan has mused on just before the election. But that’s a matter for the political culture instead of electoral systems: she called it a version of a war cabinet, in Europe it’s just one of the run-of-the-mill coalition options.

  114. the sprout 114

    SP – sorry for the delay replying to your question.

    In Germany it’s 5% or 3 electorate seats for State elections, although you’re looking at 598 seats in total (with overhangs of 15-20 seats not being unusual). Their mix is considerably more complex than ours though in that the electoral votes are FPP while the party vote is MMP.

    and of course they have a bicameral system.

  115. Caroline 115

    I agree that a party that doesn’t get over the threshold should get its electorate MPs but no list seats.

    One compromise between having no threshold and having a threshold that disenfranchises voters is to have a preferential system for the party vote. This means you list parties in order of preference, but if your first preference party is below the threshold, your vote goes to your second preference party. Of course, if you were confident of your first preference party passing the threshold, you wouldn’t need to even choose a second preference, so it wouldn’t be a lot more work for voters.

    I have wondered about the idea of adding extra seats to preserve proportionality in the event of an overhang (but I didn’t know they had it in germany – I thought it was just my own idea). Presumably it would work on the idea that it removes the incentive to create an overhang, so people wouldn’t bother doing it. But you could still accidentally get a dodgy situation where Anderton wins his electorate but only gets one fifth of the number of party votes needed for a seat, so parliament balloons from 120 seats to 600 seats. That’s a silly enough possibility that we shouldn’t do it.

  116. Caroline 116


    Your idea of having one vote that functions as both a party vote and an electorate vote is a possibility I wrote an honours essay on in 2000. I concluded that it could be worthwhile for preventing people from creating an overhang to make their vote count twice, but I couldn’t find any historical evidence of this happening. When the Maori Party got an overhang in 2005, I realised its relationship with Labour could easily develop into the sort of thing I envisaged might need to be stopped by introducing a 1-vote MMP system. I’m still not sure if it is going down that road.

    The other argument I identified for the 1-vote system was that under two-vote MMP you can vote for an electorate MP from a party you oppose, and you could use that power to weaken the party you oppose by electing an MP who was either incompetent or likely to cross the floor, and that person comes out of the party’s seat allocation. Whether that situation can develop in practice depends on the parties’ candidate selection processes.

  117. northpaw 117

    Thanks for that. I’m almost honored to know that my simple observation on member inequality and political inelegance would otherwise rate “honours essay” status. I hope, however, that your effort gained the tertiary qualification..

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