Thursday, May 5, 2011


Every so often, I steel myself and read a Garth George column. Not, you understand, because I think he is remotely sane, but because I think it's good to know what you're up against and I regard Garth's as a good baseline marker when looking for some good 'ol fashin non-reality based "in my day" talk. I find a lot of what he says to be either staggeringly ignorant or generally disgusting. Or sometimes both.

Anyway, today's column wasn't that unpleasant, comparatively speaking. He is bemoaning the days of when our governments were elected using first past the post and we had none of that icky dealing with smaller parties business. Thankfully, even if ditch MMP, the chances of going back to FPP is minimal. It's annoying though, that all the conversation in the media is only about the possibility of getting rid of MMP instead of fixing it. I find the idea of a parliament that reflects the make up of society to be a lot easier to live with that one made up of two parties or with a tiny ineffective token gesture towards proportionality (STV). I really can't see STV leading to anything other than a parliament dominated by the two big parties who could ignore the minority parties at will. The point of having minority parties is that they command the loyalty of a significant minority of our population.

Significant minority. That's where I see the problem being for our implementation of MMP. The best fix that I can see is to get rid of the tag along clause in our current system. Currently a party gets representation in parliament, proportional to the number of votes they get if they get 5 percent of the party vote or if they win an electorate seat. This second part is what is allowing the very small parties to exert the undue influence that everyone bemoans. Change it that if a small party wins an electorate, they still don't get to bring in any extra MP's unless they get over 5 percent of the vote. That way you don't end up with the idiotic result we got last time where NZ First got 4.5% and no seats in parliament while ACT got something like 2.5% and ended up with 5 seats. And it basically reduces the small minority parties to what they are single voices, while leaving significant minority parties to have the say that they are due.

As for Garth's kvetching about MP's coming back into parliament on the lists after not winning an electorate seat - that's just plain ignorance. Sure, maybe the electorate didn't want them, but enough people nationally did. It's the same with the idiotic idea that the party with the most votes should automatically get to form the next government, even if they don't have a majority. If two parties, neither of which have the greatest number of votes, but  together represent more than 50% of the population, form a coalition then it means the representatives commanding the mandate of the majority of the population will be the ones forming the government.


  1. I completely agree that MMP is the best electoral system for NZ, and I worry that the various distractions of the upcoming election season campaigning may lead to a No vote simply out of apathy or lack of informed debate.

    I also agree that the abolition of the threshold exemption seems like a sensible move in light of its consistent use to game the system. If there wasn't the exemption then electorate contests would revert to a more open, honest contest of local popularity, rather than an exercise in double-think.

    While I'm not an STV supporter, in the interest of clarity I should point out that STV isn't a 'tiny ineffective token gesture towards proportionality'. While there are other reasons why MMP is better than STV, STV is at least a proportional representation system. I think you're thinking of Supplementary Member (SM), which is the one with a vast weighting towards electorate seats and only a few list seats, i.e. 90/30 or 100/20. That's the one the Prime Minister is advocating, and it's definitely not proportional.

    For more background on the various system, see the Royal Commission on the Electoral System's report:

  2. Ah, yes. You're quite right, my mistake. STV is essentially the one up for consideration in the UK atm if I recall correctly? SM is the one that National's supporters are bandying round here.

    I do worry about the apathy/lack of informed debate. I think the later is going to be more of a problem, just because every time it gets mentioned it's always about dropping MMP for something else. Never any mention of adjusting MMP nor details regarding the ramifications of other electoral systems.

    Sad really.