Now that the outcome of the 2017 Election is known, it’s a good time to reflect on what could work better in our parliamentary democracy.

A small share of National supporters, plus some nitwit political columnists, are grumpy about the fact that National won the most votes of any individual party but nonetheless finds itself out of government. Those complaints are baseless: In a parliamentary system, you can form a government if and only if you can get a majority of MPs to support you – regardless of how the vote breaks down between different parties. That’s always been the rule, and changing it would mean fundamentally undermining parliamentary democracy.

As an example, look at Australia: Labor is the largest single party in the lower house, but a coalition between three centre-right parties (Liberal, LNP, and National) comprises the Government. This is a legitimate way to govern – just as a Labour / New Zealand First government with confidence and supply from the Greens is legitimate.

However, that’s not to say that our MMP system couldn’t be improved. As Stephen Beban noted in an article on The Spinoff, the number of parties in Parliament is now at the lowest level since MMP started. In 2005 and 2011, a total of eight parties were represented in Parliament, compared with five today. This means that the number of distinct viewpoints represented in Parliament has declined:

Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) has been used in New Zealand since 1996. This electoral system was adopted by voters in a 1993 referendum in order to create more representative parliaments. MMP made our politics a multi-party system – as can be seen in Chris McDowall’s visual history of the New Zealand parliament. However, with just five parties in Parliament, the 2017 election produced the fewest winning ‘third parties’ ever:

The total party vote for third parties has fluctuated over time, yet it has always been a significant share. Over the eight elections we’ve had under MMP, an average of one in four voters have cast a vote for a party other than National or Labour. And just under 1 in 10 voters have supported parties that received less than 5% of the vote (although some of these parties did win an electorate seat, thus gaining entry to Parliament).

This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t prohibitively difficult to start up a new party and reach Parliament. Since MMP started in 1996, there have been a total of eight minor parties represented in Parliament. Seven were founded or co-founded by dissident MPs that had split off from an existing parliamentary party, either Labour or National.

The only exception to this pattern is the Green Party, which drew upon a deep tradition of environmental and social activism stretching back to the Values Party and the anti-nuclear and environmental movements of the 1970s.

The lack of more parties in Parliament isn’t due to a lack of effort. In the last few elections, we’ve seen strong but ultimately futile attempts by three new parties:

  • The Internet-Mana Party in 2014, a radical left-wing party
  • The Conservative Party in 2011 and 2014, a Christian conservative party
  • The Opportunities Party in 2017, which pitched itself as a party for socially conscious technocrats.

To be clear, I had major problems with all three parties. Regardless of their political alignment, they were all started by wealthy middle-aged egotists who decided to spend up large to force themselves into our political landscape. Men like that make a major negative contribution to American and Australian politics and I would rather avoid the same thing here.

Nonetheless, these parties’ experience highlights the barriers to political competition.

It’s possible that this is a transitory stage, and that as MMP continues to mature we will see more parties emerge. As Peter McKenzie highlighted in a Newsroom article, that’s what’s happened in the long-running German MMP system:

There are five countries in the world using MMP. The most famous is Germany, which has used MMP for 68 years (it was introduced in 1949). Usefully, Germany also held its parliamentary election last weekend at almost the same time as us. The result was a German Parliament with six unique parties – one party on 32.9 percent, one on 20 percent, and four others between 12 percent and eight percent.

In other words, this year an MMP system which has existed three times as long as ours gave a result only somewhat more diverse than our system. Our system has five Parliamentary parties, they have six. The only major difference is that their vote share was more evenly distributed than ours.

Even more interesting is comparing the 1972 German election (when it had been using MMP for 23 years) to the 2017 NZ election (with 21 years of MMP under our belt). Given how long it takes for a population to adjust to using a new electoral system, this reveals more about our relative performance. In 1972, the German Parliament had three separate parties. The Social Democratic Party won 45.8 percent, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union alliance won 44.9 percent, and the Free Democratic Party won 8.9 percent. With that in mind, our 2017 result is a triumph, with two substantial minor parties (NZ First and the Greens) to 1972 Germany’s one, and one small minor party (ACT) to Germany’s zero.

Hopefully McKenzie is correct. But if he’s not, achieving a diverse and competitive Parliament will require us to tweak the MMP system to bring down the seemingly prohibitive barriers to entering Parliament.

The Electoral Commission’s 2012 MMP Review would be a good place to start. The two key recommendations from the review were as follows:

  • The one electorate seat threshold should be abolished (and if it is, the provision for overhang seats should also be abolished)
  • The party vote threshold should be lowered from 5% to 4% (with the Commission required by law to review how the 4% threshold is working)

If implemented, this would make it easier for new parties to start up and enter Parliament without the tacit support of an existing party. Personally, I’d prefer to go a bit further and reduce the threshold to 3%, which would give parties a minimum of three/four MPs. But regardless, the MMP Review gave a clear steer to lower the barrier.

The National Party opposed implementing the Electoral Commission’s recommendations and hence they weren’t implemented. (Labour and the Greens supported the recommendations, while NZ First opposed lowering the threshold.) If National hasn’t changed their view, that means that no changes can be progressed, as there’s a convention that changes to electoral law require a referendum or a 75% majority in Parliament.

At the time, opposing changes to party vote thresholds and the electorate lifeboat for small parties created short-term political advantages for National. But the ground has shifted under them: In three terms in office, they have cannibalised their natural support parties – ACT has been reduced to a desiccated husk on political life-support in Epsom, while United Future and the Maori Party have left Parliament. This led to a bad negotiating position with New Zealand First and the belated realisation that they should have built bridges with the Green Party.

If either the Conservative Party or TOP had made it into Parliament – which would have been possible with a lower threshold – National could easily still be in office. They certainly would have had a better negotiating position. So if National wants to do something constructive in opposition that would both improve our parliamentary democracy and improve their options for governing in the future, they should get to work building cross-party consensus for implementing the Electoral Commission’s recommendations from the 2012 MMP Review.

[Side note: The prospect of having the Conservatives, IMP, or TOP in Parliament isn’t that appealing. However, I suspect that the current 5% party vote threshold affects the types of parties that start up. It’s a high bar, so you need serious resources and a certain degree of deluded optimism to even try. A lower threshold would make it easier for groups of people who aren’t as rich or egotistical to make a solid run at it.]

How do you think we should improve MMP?

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92 comments

  1. I don’t understand the recommendation to abolish the one electorate seat threshold. You don’t currently have to have one electorate seat as long as your party vote is big enough. So there is no threshold that way. Is it meaning abolishing it the other way – i.e. one electorate seat doesn’t get you in if your party vote is below the % threshold? How would that work – does the electorate seat go to the second place person?

    1. Imagine the Nick Party gets 2.5% of the vote. If there was no threshold they would be entitled to three seats in Parliament. However, because we currently have a 5% threshold they will get none.

      But now imagine that the Nick Party won the Epsom electorate as well. Because of the one electorate seat threshold they are now entitled to all three seats that their 2.5% imply. If the electorate seat threshold was removed they would still keep Epsom – they won that fair and square – but Nick wouldn’t get his two extra mates in Parliament with him.

      1. Yes, well said. The glaringly obvious point to me is that if the country as a whole doesn’t get over the 5% for that party, yet that candidate wins the electorate, then that electorate is either quite unique in its needs or it’s playing political games. Lowering or removing the threshold will stop this sort of manipulation.

    2. Could it mean you just get one vote – the party vote – and the part that wins the greatest proportion of party votes in that electorate gets the electorate seat?

        1. Except that it’s the proportion of party votes overall that determines the number of seats (as MMP currently has) and FPP explicitly did not.

          1. There is a big difference between the proportion of party votes overall and the proportion of party votes in an electorate.

            If you have each electorate to the party with the highest party vote in 2017 election you would have National with 46 seats (65 %) and Labour with 25 seats (35 %) and no other parties in parliament. That in no way reflects the will of the voters.

      1. No. The point of still having the electorate seat is that it allows people to vote for a local representative without it affecting the overall picture. For instance you might be a Labour voter but really want your local National candidate to be the voice of your area. Having two ticks allows you to vote for that local candidate, but still have the party vote determine the overall balance of the house.

  2. I assume they would mean that you wouldn’t get any List seats unless you reached the threshold. In Germany you need to win 3 electorate seats to be excepted from the threshold.

  3. The threshold results in a random wasting of votes. The Greens came perilously close this time a few weeks out which must have left a few of their supporters thinking about not supporting them. Anyway you look at it the threshold results in a terrible outcome. Better to get rid of the threshold altogether or at least make it 0.83%. That is if you win enough votes for one seat then you get one seat. As for all the numpties going on about National getting the most seats, these people are not ignorant of the system, they are just feigning outrage as that is what disappointed right wingers do. It is the same mentality as blaming the referee when the all blacks lose. Just a pack of dickheads.

    1. The reason given for any threshold is always that it was created for Germany’s situation; they needed to ensure that small numbers of Nazi voters wouldn’t be represented by an MP who could presumably cause mayhem and offence in parliament.

      Is NZ robust enough that we need this protection? I can’t imagine what sort of extreme party in NZ would be so foul as to rock the political system by the presence of one or two MPs. We still have rules of conduct. So unless someone convinces me otherwise, I agree with mfwic here. Why not just get rid of the threshold?

      1. I think Germany’s reason still applies here. You can have some nut bar party being ‘Kingmaker’ by getting 0.83% of the vote. At least Winston’s nut bar party got 7%

        1. Winston was kingmaker only because of his numbers though. In NZ, we’d get more parties, yes, but they would be in addition to the other small parties. Only parties with similar numbers to Greens and NZF would probably ever be kingmakers. And if the parties had honestly lined up on two sides so that a one or two-seat party was kingmaker, then it’s probably fair that the country could go either way.

      2. Another reason for some sort of threshold is that you may otherwise run risk of having two dozens of parties with one or two seats each.
        Doesn’t have to be 5% of course..

      3. If enough people vote for them they should be represented. One seat doesn’t give much power. Probably better to have them in making fools of themselves than outside claiming the system is rigged against them.

        1. Unless that one seat is the deciding seat. Then it has a lot of power.
          Of course with more parties this is less likely to occur.

          1. Yes that person gets to decide, but the power has well defined limits. You are not going to get anything the larger parties finds repulsive. The ‘decider’ can really only exploit the middle-ground between two larger groups or if they are at the fringe then the best they can achieve is a token gesture that the larger party can justify as a ‘dead rat’ they will swallow to achieve everything else. The recent beat up ignored the rock and hard place constraints NZ First were actually stuck with.

    2. Alternatively we could have preferential voting for the list. This would give people the confidence to vote for their party of choice, knowing if that party didn’t get above the threshold their vote would be transferred to their second choice.

      1. You mean ranked party vote right? IMO this is the way to go–parties still need a significant amount of support (since the 4-5% threshold remains), but no-one has to worry about wasting their vote on a party that doesn’t make the threshold.

        1. I don’t think that is a hindrance really, as long as those who would likely benefit understand it is all that matters. I imagine most people who are aware of the risk of their party falling below 5 % and contemplating changing their vote would also be aware of how PV works.

    3. i tend to agree with that sentiment mfwic, lower the threshold to one seat. Downside for me would be the risk of more religious nutbars in parliament where I dont think religion belongs (having said that tho the previous PM was a religious nutbar afaik).

      1. Well, religious nutbars will always go for parliament, because they have this inbuilt desire to force their beliefs upon others – and isn’t that what parliament is all about? Really?

        The only good side to religious nutbars is that they almost inevitably fall foul to their own standards – hoist by their own petard, so to speak. I’m thinking of the Graham ? who was head of the Christian something party till he got caught being all pedo, or wassisname the stick insect from the Conservative party who went seriously weird on his secretary, or Brian Tamaki who thankfully didn’t get in at all – but imagine if he had – Winston would be having a ball ripping him to shreds over his profligate lifestyle. Similarly, but thankfully further away, the absolute nut jobs that are present in the USA. All with their hands in the till or their pants round their ankles.

    4. re the Greens close to threshold in polls – yes I was very much considering voting for them this election but was spooked by chance of not getting in at all so went with Labour as didn’t want National lead govt returning another term.

      5% is too high, that’s why that commission suggested lowering it. I think even 3% is fine (be interesting if it was lowered – how many new parties would kick into being for the next election?!).

      Definitely get rid of the one electorate seat threshold, it’s why we ended up with the silly ACT business which is just distracting from good debate & policy anyway.

      Perhaps reduce MP’s to 100 as they also suggested IIRC, save a bit of money & complication.

      Don’t most experts believe and transferable / ranking voting system is the most pure form of fairness? Good luck with the public understanding it or using it correctly if half of us still don’t understand MMP though?

      1. Re 3% as a threshold bringing in more parties:
        Certainly with TOP on 2.5%, i’d guess there was at least 0.5% that would have been interested in them but not interested in wasting their vote.

        And then there was the conservatives last time round, nz first in 2008, christian coalition of kiddy fiddlers in 96. All above 4% but didn’t get in.

      2. Grant – beware of self fulfilling prophesies. you nearly helped create one by abandoning your beliefs. re 100 MPs – the need for 120 is more driven by the bulk of the work in the committee rooms, not in the debating chamber

  4. Also I don’t like one man bands like Act and United future being referred to as ‘parties’. Effectively they are independent MPs.

    1. ACT makes a mockery of “but we need the threshold to keep out the microparties” line. They don’t cause the world to implode in Australia, and nor do they do so here.

      (I favour a 1.5% threshold myself… but I am somewhat convinced that we’d stop the only way to create new parties being to be a millionaire problem if we transferred party votes a la the flag referendum. You could even set the threshold at .83% and still transfer votes.)

  5. A lowering of the threshold would give a more representative democracy, as much as I personally agree with you that the parties started by uber wealthy egotists are not a great thing. Although I wonder who started National or its forerunner/s, surely someone or a group with money. The worst part is how “wasted” votes are allocated according to overall vote share. A close friend was close to voting TOP on their tax ideas, but I put him off by telling him that half his vote would end up supporting National, a party he abhors like myself. That you can vote radically to one side of the spectrum and have almost 50% of that vote absorbed by one of the behemoth parties (until their share starts to drop) on the opposite side of the spectrum, ends up completely misrepresenting the voter. It is also clear that many do not quite understand MMP, obvious when you look at how the Green candidate vote cost the Labour Candidate in at least Auckland Central and Maungakiekie, when the Greens solely campaign on the party vote (this is their issue too as they are not getting their message across. Perhaps a threshold around 1.7% (two mps) would fix the other coat tail rule. David Seymour must be used to it by now, but a lone mp, particularly outside a coalition as he is now, can do little more than rant. We have a NeoLiberal problem here, not NeoNazi, and it won’t be that easy to keep them out of parliament (unless mps will be required to have a social conscience)!

    1. “It is also clear that many do not quite understand MMP, obvious when you look at how the Green candidate vote cost the Labour Candidate in at least Auckland Central and Maungakiekie” – but that made absolutely NO difference to the final number of MPs for Labour, Greens or National in parliament (Only in Epsom and the Maori seats did it potentially have a nationwide effect). The party vote adds on extra list MPs to make up the appropriate proportionate numbers; if a party unexpectedly lost an electorate then they would get an extra List MP for the same percentage of party votes.

      1. Agree, Denise Lee winning Maungakiekie just meant one less person made it in off the National list. As a Labour voter in Maungakiekie I was quite happy to see Denise win as it means she is no longer on council!

  6. I favor the dropping on the threshold to 3%

    I’ve also seen blog posts elsewhere talking about compulsory voting in the same way as Australia does, which I’m against.

    If we start looking at reviewing MMP, we should look at all aspects of the electoral process, including an examination of the potential consequences (intended and unintended).

  7. The adversarial parliamentary system is antiquated and dumb. AFTER MOST ELECTIONS, AROUND HALF OF ALL VOTERS ARE GENERALLY LEFT FEELING AGGRIEVED THAT “THEIR” PARTY HAS NO REAL SAY IN GOVERNMENT, apart from the role of “honourable opposition”. Those in opposition then waste a huge amount of resources engaging in negative and obstructive behaviour with the intention, not of “keeping the government honest”, but of kicking out the party/parties in power as soon as possible.

    Outside of the debating chamber there appears to be a great deal of cross party respect between politicians. There is no gaping chasm between a moderate socialist and a moderate capitalist and there is no reason why politicians with differing views cannot work together in government… with practice.

    The solution: Create TRUE proportional representation. Minimise the adversarial effects of the party system and make them all work together. Quantify each ministerial portfolio according to power/influence and allocate ministerial positions to parties according to the number of votes received. 30% of the popular vote received by a party (for example) should logically translate into 30% of power & influence in government. The mechanics can be simple.

    Moving away from the lobby voting system in parliament is also attractive. Among other advantages, confidential voting would reduce the coercive power of the parties and encourage members to vote according to their consciences.

    In the above scenario we wouldn’t see bizarre situations arising such as we have recently witnessed. For me, however, boring and stable is infinitely preferable. They’ll still find a way to make it interesting, no doubt.

    1. Agreed!!
      This is so common sense it’s insane.

      In an even more representative system we could go a step further:
      At election time, what if i could vote for a preferred candidate in each major ministry?

      I could vote for ACT for Education, Greens for Transport and TOP for Social Development…. and for an Independent as Environment Minister. If I’m lazy or just love one party, I can simply tick all their candidate’s boxes.
      We would still have local MPs by they couldn’t also be ministers; their job is to represent the local ward and vote on issues/bills.

      The trick would be finding a fair process to set the annual budgets though a parliamentary vote. Parties would naturally band together to help win majorities on issues like the Budget, as they do now..it’s just that one party or coalition wouldn’t hold the “power” to the same degree.

      1. This is (more or less) the system that we had in the late 1800s, before the formation of the Liberal Party: https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/14-09-2017/a-visual-history-of-the-new-zealand-parliament/

        All representative democracies seem to have a tendency towards party formation. For voters, this can be a quite good thing as it makes it easier to make decisions – ie knowing that your local candidate is a member of a party that has committed to doing X, Y, Z is helpful. Of course, it can also be frustrating if you feel like your interests can’t be effectively represented, which is why there’s also a move towards proportional representation.

    2. What you are describing is effectively a grand coalition in government. No one would know what they were voting for as the real negotiations into what is in the budget would not happen until after the election.

      I think we would also end up with an endless slow churn, where people rose up through the cabinet ranks who had been indoctrinated by their predecessors so little would change. At least with a period in opposition a party has a chance for a clean out and some new ideas, such as Labour now focusing on PT and urban issues much more than the Clark government did.

      In addition there would have to be either an enormous negotiation over the legislative programme or everything would have to go into a ballot.

    3. “The division of Whig and Tory… is the most salutary of all divisions and ought, therefore, to be fostered instead of being amalgamated; for take away this, and some more dangerous principle of division will take its place.” –Thomas Jefferson to W. Short, 1825.

    4. Really interesting idea. Unfortunately 95% of voters are too ignorant of politics to understand such a system and would just do the 15 ticks Labours/National or however many ticks you want to put in. Currently, because we have no constitution, the government which has enough seats has unbridled and unlimited power to change any law for any reason, overnight through urgency. Why would they want give any of that up?

  8. I think the current system is working generally well although lowering the threshold would be a good idea. We might get a few “interesting” MPs but the country will adjust and vote them out if. Interestingly, the threshold may have helped the Greens, a party I abhor, as many of the casual voter may have seen them disappearing from party and, therefore, came back. If there was no threshold maybe there wouldn’t have been any urgency.

    1. on the contrary there were probably lots of voters who didn’t vote Green as they didn’t want to risk their vote not being counted if they get < 5%

      1. I agree that would be a factor perhaps a greater one. But Mr. Shaw almost begged for people to vote for them – something along the lines of if a person had ever voted or thought about voting. That would have ceated urgency. If it wasn’t 5% then maybe it wouldn’t have the sense of drama. Of course until we have research on the matter it’s just speculation on our parts.

  9. I think you’ll find the Green’s broke away from the Alliance in the late 1990s. In the MMP era, no party has got into Parliament for the first time without having an existing MP breakaway from another party first. The last time it happened was Social Credit in 1966.

    1. It’s a bit more complicated than that! The NZ Green Party was founded in 1990, prior to the creation of the Alliance and with the participation of a lot of their first batch of MPs. They got 6.85% of votes in the 1990 election, but no seats. They subsequently joined the Alliance to contest the 1993 and 1996 elections, but then split off again prior to the 1999 election. Basically, they had a separate identity and a reasonable degree of political viability prior to the Alliance.

  10. What can be made even better is a combination of MMP and Single transferable vote (STV)

    That means if their first choice minor party does not reach threshold, their vote will instead goes to their next choice, which will likely be a major party.

    Example is a voter can put a first vote in Green, Second vote in Labour.

    So even if Green does not reach threshold and out, their votes goes to Labour automatically.

    That ensure no vote are wasted and encourage voters to take the risk to vote their favourite minor party that may not reach threshold.

  11. I think that lowering the threshold from 5% to 4% will make it quite a bit easier for a party to get into parliament. With the current 55 threshold if a party is polling around 2-3% then a lot of people who might consider voting for it will probably not because they will rightly conclude it has a snowball’s chance of getting in. But with the lower threshold a lot of those people may decide to vote and all of a sudden a party polling only 3% could end up get around 4.1-4.2 on election night.

  12. Comment without criticism, but one comes to this blog to satisfy one’s transport and transport-infrastructure related obsessions.

    1. Transport, along with all the other Auckland issues discussed here, is approached very differently by the different parties. Under FFP, we’d probably still be looking at motorway building destroying our city further. Electoral process is as important to plans for our city as it is to every aspect of our lives. I recommend you just wait for the next post if this one doesn’t interest you.

    2. Apologies to Tomas for discussing politics in a transport focused site. I googled my way direct to this page without stopping to check the site’s main purpose.

      While I’m here – light rail is pretty, but very much a 20th century solution. Show me the way to the discussion on 21st century transport solutions – trackless electric trains (see today’s Herald) and low footprint, cost effective, low speed Maglev!!

        1. Heaven!! Thanks Heidi.

          I had a quick look & enjoyed the spectacular ludicrousness, together with the odd gem. In particular I liked the “combine car & train” illustration. People love the “cocoon” which the car provides – why not let them keep the cocoon and take it with them via multiple modes of locomotion??

          North Shore example – leave the petrol or electric driven chassis at the suburban train station, hook the cocoon on to an overhead Maglev chassis for the trip into the city, then be parked & walk to work or pick up another Uber road chassis in the city if you need to.

          Too loopy – back on the bike…

          1. Cocoon transferral systems. Hmmm… Presumably if we start taxing people sufficiently for their fossil fuel use, carbon emissions and pollution, the cocoons would undergo a design revolution and become incredibly light. Next we’d have to charge properly for the road and parking space they take up. And maybe a tax for social disconnection too? 🙂 I reckon Elton had it nailed in the opening pages of “Gridlock”.

            Too radical – back on the bike… 🙂

    3. I hear you Tomas, but since the name was changed from Transport Blog (or what ever) to ‘greater Auckland’ there’s an implied direction that some folk want to widen the topics of conversation ?????????

  13. 1) The one electorate seat threshold should be retained – it is anti-democratic to remove it.

    2) The party vote threshold should be lowered to 0%. The effective threshold would be 1/120 *100% = 0.83% of the vote with 120 seats or 1/100*100% =1% with 100 seat parliament. It is completely anti-democratic to have a threshold.

    We cannot have innovation in democracy and new parties arising with a threshold in place.

  14. If the threshold were to be abolished it would mean a party, based on the last election, would needaround 18,100 votes. That is about what a MP gets in a constituency electorate.

  15. National would have to support lowering the threshold to 2 or 3% to cultivate some new coalition mates.

    Editor: This comment has been edited to remove several comments that are in violation of our user guidelines. Please be respectful to other members of our community.

    1. How is Twyford’s on-record comments about Chinese names automatically shut down but this kind of shit OK on this blog?

      1. Good point. Offensive to Christians, Cantabrians, and Asian New Zealanders. Pretty clear violation of our user guidelines, so I have edited it accordingly.

    1. The only really important goal of MMP is to prevent any one party having absolute power. Germany didn’t have a lot of fun the last time that happened.

      National has gotten uncomfortably close to ruling alone because large swathes of the population still have an FPP mindset and will vote for a bloc even if it only has tangential relevance to their own viewpoint. The introduction of MMP has probably only reinforced this behaviour as voters try even harder to be on the “winning” side despite the odds. This attitude is generational and it may be 20+ years before we see greater willingness to offer sustained support to minor parties instead of just making protest votes during lopsided elections.

  16. (Optional) preferential voting for both local and list would substantially abolish wasted votes.

    But the MMP variant I really like is to have a single (compulsory) preferential “local” ballot paper, and then just take the “party vote” as the best-ranked party (or at least the best-ranked party which made it over the threshold).

    There is no list per se. The order of election of “List MPs” is decided not by the party, but by “best-loser at point of elimination” (i.e. after they’ve had a chance to receive local preferences).

    All MPs must campaign locally, and a party must stand a candidate in a local electorate to receive votes there.

    I like this system because I strongly believe in the principle that a party is only as good as its candidates/MPs and vice versa.

    1. Senior party MPs and ministers work really hard. A good electorate MP works really hard. But it’s different work. We’re actually served better both nationally and in our electorates if the senior MPs aren’t having to also do the electorate work. I kind of agree with you, but I think it’s important to consider what we’re asking MPs to do, and whether only narcissists can achieve that. What about the families?

      1. Fair concern.

        The thing is, there’s no guarantee that the party which ends up forming Government will actually win any list seats. The NZ proportions mean that it’s fairly likely they will, but it’s not guaranteed.

        Australia, Canada & the UK all seem to manage even though their ministers have to juggle constituency and ministry.

        1. Do those countries have good levels of participation in politics by people with families, and women? Or are certain demographics essentially excluded unless the personalities tend towards the driven – self – centred types? I don’t know the answer, but if our system contributes to poor representation, maybe we need to question it?

  17. @Simon: This is because of the single electorate rule and the fact that National will do any deal it can to stay in power, including knee-capping its own candidates.

    Generally I think 3% would be a good bar to set. The larger parties may see their cohesion threatened as smaller parties compete for positions between larger parties. Also, parties like NZF would see their lunch very much threatened i.e. we would we would likely see fewer disproportionate balance-of-power situations with tails wagging dogs, etc.

  18. MMP is a very effective and fair electoral system. Seats are allocated proportionally by party vote, and in priority of those who win electorate seats then list seats. The strength of MMP is based on the ability for coalitions to work together on a united front rather than a single party government which we’ve had prior to MMP to govern without winning the popular vote. It’s a pity that the party who gained the most party votes still treats our elections as FPP, focusing on maximising party votes and alienating potential allies, and now has at least three years to reflect on that in opposition.

    I agree the 5% threshold needs to be lowered. 4% would be ideal as it would allow more non-established political parties to have a shot in Parliament but also keep out extremist parties.

    I also believe the FPP element in electoral contest needs to be scrapped in favour of STV. This would help elect a more preferred representative, rather than solely who won the most votes (which in many cases was not a majority). This may have resulted in much different outcomes, particularly in seats such as Northland, Auckland Central, Maungakiekie, Wairarapa, Nelson and Ilam.

  19. Politics throws up various arbitrary limits:
    . Speed limit 50
    . Annual approvals for permanent residents 45,000
    . Drinking age 18
    . MMP Threshold 5%
    For a given set of driving conditions 50 is often too fast but although you may be prosecuted for dangerous driving you don’t get a speed ticket. The limit could be 40 or 60 but 50 is accepted as a reasonable compromise by the populace. It is important that every driver is aware of the limit so it has to be a number like say 40 or 45 not say 43.
    The national immigration quota can be adjusted up or down without much debate – the Nationals slightly dropped it this year. However immigration remains contentious with say half the population wanting a reduction and half thinking it is a good thing and therefore more would be better. Current quota best compromise.
    We all know people under 18 who could drink in a sensible adult way if permitted and the older among us will know of middle-aged adults unable to control their drinking. However it is accepted that self control is age related and the age of 18 is a compromise accepted by most of us.
    MMP threshold is 5% but everyone who thinks about it says it ought to be lower. Rather like the flag the majority would like a change but cannot agree what to.
    Maybe the way MMP is different from speed limits, immigration quota, drinking age is that the average person discusses the latter but only political junkies are interested in the details of MMP.
    What is interesting is that the clear agreement of experts is frustrated by short term politicking.

    1. Alcohol purchase age has been always been decided by a conscience vote with neither Labour nor National taking an all or nothing approach.

  20. Lower the threshold to 3%. It will keep the radical parties out, but help new parties to start. If a party gets an electorate and 2.5% of the party vote, they should still get all the MPs they are entitled to. That’s what the people wanted and that’s the whole point of MMP.

  21. There is always an exception to MMP, where in the 2015 UK elections the UK Independent Party received 12.5% of the popular vote, but won just one seat under the First Past the Post electorate system in place. Under MMP this would have entitled them to 83 seats of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.
    It was a short lived triumph for anti-Brexit supporters.

    In 2011, in a referendum concurrently with borough council elections, UK rejected to move to Preferential Voting.

  22. “Greater Auckland (formerly TransportBlog) was established in 2015 to provide commentary and encourage intelligent debate about transport and urban form issues, with a particular focus on Auckland. We want to make our city a better place for everyone.”

    … ?
    while there is an indirect link between MMP and TB’s purpose, there is also an indirect link between (for example) the oil industry and TB – yet if I came here and saw a post examining oil and gas developments off Taranaki I’d probably be a little aggrieved.

    1. Calm down, there are 69 comments on this article so far and only two criticising it’s relevance so it is clearly interesting to the majority of readers.

        1. 🙂 I could recommend what I was reading and chortling to today on the Outer Link (Wonder), but maybe “great bus reading books” need to keep you quiet?

        2. That’s a quite good idea for a regular post – share what you’re reading on the bus, train, or ferry.

          I may set that up as a recurring Wednesday arvo post!

  23. And Internet Mana is/was NOT a radical left wing party.
    No radical left wing party would associate with a member of the bourgeois as “fat cat” as Dotcom. A pure capitalist.

    1. JD – well clearly that was why it fell apart pronto and none of their people voted for it – Mana was about as left-leaning as it could be, and dot-com was just about trying to avoid the noose from the USA, so it is pretty silly to say Internet Mana was NOT radical left, when clearly at least half of it wanted to be. Anyway: it has gone, is dead and buried, and probably will never come back again.

      However, I for one would really like to read an article here about prospecting for oil and gas off the Taranaki coast. Its all connected !

      1. I’ve never looked at their policies in detail, but I just read their tax policy, being kind of central to economics. There’s nothing radical there; I think it’s moderate left. We like to think we’re a moderate country, but actually the idea that Mana is radical left is a sign that the left-right balance of understanding hasn’t shifted back since Rogernomics.

        What happened to Mana’s voters could be put down to the effect of the media attack as much as to some voter aversion to using Dotcom’s money to try to take on the Big Boys.

  24. To me, MMP is fine as it is. The current coalition government is what MMP is all about and works in the best interest of the voters, while some might not agree.

    I would prefer the threshold to remain at 5% but wouldn’t object to 4% threshold, if it allowed parties like the Maori Party and United Future into the political mix.

    I feel that there is enough well established political parties and polices to choose from for NZ’s current population, being National, Labour, NZ First and the Greens. I would have like to have seen the Maori Party surviving, as I believe that Maoridom should have their own voice.

    Labour and the Green Party understood the concept of MMP, hence their MOU but for some reason that National seem to ‘conveniently’ forgot hence ACT out in the political wilderness with their 1 seat. Maybe it was complacency on National part.

    I do agree, there is still confusion amongst voters about MMP and seems it came from the war babies and baby boomers who have been use to FFP system plus they are still the biggest voting block.

    I do believe there needs to be civil studies education in schools, so Gen Z has a better understanding how MMP works, so they and future generation of voters become proactive in voting.

    With the Jacinda effect and the line up of millennial MP’s in the Green Party plus a true coalition government in place, I hope more 18 plus voters, vote in the 2020 elections.

  25. removing the electoral seat threshold and dropping the %age to 1.7% (or what ever represents 2 seats) is my preference. At 1.7%, it then can open up discussion about the Maori seats as at that level, they are guaranteed representation if their people vote for them – and they’d probably get a lot more seats than they currently do. 1.7% and removing the Maori electoral roll could be a win/win – more Maori representation and fewer red-necks (or Don Brash) bitching about their perception of racism.

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