Maxim on the MMP Referendum

September 20th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Maxim have a handy wee paper by Steve Thomas on the five on offer in the upcoming . They don’t say which one is their preference. It’s a good guide to the pros and cons of the various systems, so I’ve embedded it below.

Their summary of the five systems are:

MMP provides well for electorate representation and the representation of interests, and can provide for reasonably stable government.21 The strength of MMP is the flip-side of its drawbacks. It enables more parties to be elected to parliament, which is great for the breadth of representation, but it also gives parties a lot of power. It can also create bargaining instead of debate among parties, and a weakened accountability of the government to voters. It can also encourage interest groups to act in unhelpful ways.


FPP is simple to understand and it usually produces clear results. FPP delivers strong, stable, single party majority government most of the time, and there is usually no confusion about which party can form a government. It is easy for voters to dump a government and elect a new one since parties generally do not negotiate together to form a government.20 But, as New Zealand’s experience indicates, instances of highly disproportionate election results weakened the legitimacy of electoral outcomes and the Cabinet’s tight control over legislation and parliament weakened the public’s trust in government.21 It can also be difficult for minorities to be represented, either because safe seats make it difficult to dislodge a popular candidate or because it is difficult for minority candidates to win enough concentrated support in one electorate.


PV provides for strong electorate representation, through the election of local MPs, which usually leads to the election of single-party majority governments. That said, PV gives minor party candidates a fighting chance of winning a seat when second and subsequent preferences are used to help elect a candidate. However, it is still harder for minority candidates and parties to be represented in parliament under PV because it is not a proportional system. Further, PV can sometimes produce electoral outcomes that might not be considered entirely legitimate if the most popular candidate on first preferences does not win—although this point is debatable. While PV would enable voters to more clearly express their preferences for certain candidates it could also introduce some new ways for parties and candidates to engineer electoral outcomes, as parties would advise supportive voters how to vote to give them the best advantage.


STV is an attractive system in principle since it enables voters to indicate exactly which candidates they would like in multi-member electorates. STV enables voters to choose both between and within parties, meaning that parliament ought to reflect a wider diversity of opinions within society.22 The use of multi-member electorates also means that electoral outcomes will be more proportional.

The theoretical advantages of STV have to be weighed carefully against the practical issues with using it and the way voters tend to interact with this relatively complex system. For example, it could undermine the cohesiveness of political parties as candidates from the same party would compete against each other for election. The option of voting above-the-line can also give parties more control over which candidates are elected and in which order. In this case, many voters would not actually end up individually choosing their local MPs. In short, the advantages offered by STV could be eroded by measures to make it easier for voters to understand and use.


In trying to blend two styles of voting system, SM has some of the benefits and some of the drawbacks of both. It is neither a completely proportional system, nor does it guarantee that one party will win a large enough majority to be able to govern alone.

In terms of representation, SM has the potential to achieve a good balance between national and local representation of interests. Electorate representation would be strong, creating good ties between parliament and voters, but a quarter of parliament would also be made up of list MPs who tend to be able to represent minority interest groups well.

Because there would be more electorate MPs under SM than under MMP the major parties would benefit, but there is also a chance coalitions would be needed to form a government and that minor parties would have more representation than they typically do under single-member electorate systems, like FPP.

The document is below.

EMBARGOED Kicking the Tyres

10 Responses to “Maxim on the MMP Referendum”

  1. Chris2 (916 comments) says:

    In discussing MMP, it is a shame the paper does not refer to the very regrettable state of affairs that allows political parties to compile their party lists in secret and without regard to the voters. It absolutely denies voters the right to “vote out” an unpopular candidate for Parliament.

    Every List MP should have some mandate, some popular support, to be in Parliament. This could be achieved if political parties could no longer compile party lists, but rather the list was made up, after the election, of their unsuccessful electorate candidates, with the highest-polling unlucky candidate being ranked at the top of the party list, and so on down.

    This would return true voting power to the public, and take it away from the party bosses dolling out favours.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. robcarr (132 comments) says:

    It sounds like it was written by someone who very much likes FPP.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. East Wellington Superhero (1,143 comments) says:

    Talked to a Maxim person a month or so ago, and they said some of the upsides to MMP is that it slows down the speed of legislation which, when too fast, isn’t good for a country. NZ’s unicameral system makes it too easy to change law fast.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:


    Agreed. I have said before that we need an upper house with vetoe power. My preference would be to restrict it to those aged 40 – 45.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. tristanb (1,136 comments) says:

    Who really cares what some fundamentalist Christian group have to say.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “Who really cares what some fundamentalist Christian group have to say.”

    People with more than two braincells to rub together.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. East Wellington Superhero (1,143 comments) says:

    @ tristanb

    Maxim is not a Christian fundamentalist group. And people who think that aren’t very well informed. Most of their work, as far as I’ve seen, has been on tax, education, and election stuff. Though granted, they did wade into the prostitution reform work and civil unions stuff – but so did many groups.

    What I think is significant is that Maxim is the only (serious) non-publically funded policy organisation in New Zealand. This is signifcant. Not only that Maxim in the only one, but that there is only one.

    I’ve never worked for Maxim or anything, but their work interests me particularly because they are one of the few truly free voices in NZ not on the public purse.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:


    tristanb’s definition of “fundamentalist” is anyone who is Christian. Its ignorant meaningless drivel, like most of the crap posted by the irrational anti-Christian nutters here.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. gravedodger (1,704 comments) says:

    One rock solid thing about tristanb is;
    That if the socialists didnt think of it.
    They didn’t fund it with stolen money.
    They didn’t select the people to trough at it.
    Then it is totally unreliable with its output.

    The total concept that an entity could even so much as exist without the Proletariat running it is unthinkable so we will label it as fundamentalist, rightwing religious, Business Round Table, Chinless scarf wearing or some other denigrative nomenclature and dismiss it as a conspiracy.
    He/She will still follow that philosophy till death, even if their personal situation is recognised as capitalist by everyone else.
    Just read Orwell’s Animal Farm.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. V (1,592 comments) says:

    Thats a great idea, regarding an auto-created list as it were. Better than the party-hack system we have now.

    Personally I would like to adopt more elements of the Swiss direct democracy, whereby any piece of legislation can be brought to a referendum based on a small petition (25 000[from memory]). You would have up to say 4 such referendum a year. Pass/Fail based on a simple majority.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote