Should List MPs be able to stand in by-elections?

March 6th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

At I blog on another issue in the MMP review, namely should List MPs be able to stand in by-elections.

My conclusion:

However I am firmly of the view that List MPs should not be able to stand in by-elections. I think the results of elections should be transparent, and someone from Dunedin should not suddenly become a List MP because of how the voters in Mana voted. The average voter won’t get to grips with the details of how a list MP becoming an electorate MP means a new List MP enters Parliament, and won’t be making an informed vote.

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26 Responses to “Should List MPs be able to stand in by-elections?”

  1. lastmanstanding (1,286 comments) says:

    IMHO list MPs are Clayton MPs 2nd class not elected by the citizens but by a gaggle of unworthies in back room on a moonless night. If they want to stand in a seat for any reason they must resign as an MP and put themselves to the citizens. they shouldnt havent a each way bet.

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  2. Graeme Edgeler (3,283 comments) says:

    If your concern is really that some list MP is the true winner of an election won by some other list MP, ban that. Otherwise, this should be answered the same way as “should dual candidacy be permitted”?*

    Change the law so that when a sitting list MP wins a by-election, that they aren’t replaced by another list MP, and this problem goes away, without telling voters in, for example, Mana, that the person who sought to be their National MP at the last election, and who will seek to be their National MP at the next election doesn’t want to be their MP for the next 18 months (or however long it was).

    * edit: I mean that, if you support dual candidacy, then lest MPs should be able to run in by-elections; if you oppose it, they shouldn’t.

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  3. Elaycee (4,377 comments) says:

    lastmanstanding: “IMHO list MPs are Clayton MPs 2nd class not elected by the citizens but by a gaggle of unworthies in back room on a moonless night….”

    Says it all, really.

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  4. David Farrar (1,889 comments) says:

    Actually Graeme I’m toying with whether under MMP we should have by-elections. The argument against the one electorate threshold is it gives voters in one seat more of a say than voters in another seat.

    Well surely that applies to by-elections also. If it is wrong for voters in Epsom to have a bigger impact by getting ACT in with extra MPs, then would it not be wrong for voters in say Tamaki to get to remove the majority from a Government?

    In the Australian Senate, they require replacement Senators to be from the same party. Why not have the party that holds a seat appoint the replacement MP?

    On the main issue, your solution may be better than my one. That would provide a disincentive to parties to stand a List MP, but if the List MP was really the best candidate then they would still do so.

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  5. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    These are solutions in search of a non-existent problem, IMO. If by-election voters are worried that electing one candidate will mean a different person comes into Parliament via the list, then they don’t have to vote for that candidate. Otherwise, I don’t think there needs to be too much fuss about whether, say, the 32nd person on the list wins an electorate and the 33rd person on the list comes into Parliament.

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  6. nzclassicalliberal (34 comments) says:

    “someone from Dunedin should not suddenly become a List MP because of how the voters in Mana voted”

    I disagree, but mainly because I come at it from a different angle.

    I think that list MPs who fail to win a seat should be prevented from setting up offices in the electorate and pretending to be “the list MP for Auckland Central or whatever”. List MPs should be firmly focussed on national rather than local issues.

    If that were the case, the fact that the newest list MP was from Dunedin would be totally irrelevant. Mana would get a new local MP and the country would get a new list MP.

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  7. Monty (976 comments) says:

    I do not have a problem with alist MP standing as a candidate so long as the list MP has stood in that electorate previously. But more the issue (and it is a conflict with my statement above) is that there are some MPs who are clearly not wanted by the electorate yet get back in on the list, and maybe via a % cap only a proportion of electorate MPs should be allowed in on the list.

    Really though I do not like MMP although we are stuck with it. I would prefer the Supplementary Member system. The left won that much in the 2011 election.

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  8. nzclassicalliberal (34 comments) says:

    Also, I don’t really like tailoring a voting system to cope with stupidity. If people are too thick to work out that electing a list MP in a by-election will result in a new list MP entering Parliament then why do we let them vote? That’s a much simpler issue than what policies will be best for the economy.

    This is also simpler than trying to understand STV, which, as I recall, you supported. (As did I.)

    I think if we pander to stupidity we encourage it.

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  9. nzclassicalliberal (34 comments) says:

    Moreover, had Hekia Parata won in Mana, would the new MP not have been the next on Labour’s list? Otherwise a win in a by-election would actually change the balance in Parliament which is supposed to be decided by party votes and therefore list MPs.

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  10. peterwn (3,246 comments) says:

    So this means that if say the MP for Erewhon is put out to pasture at NZ House, and there is an outstanding list MP who lives in Erewhon, then the local party branch in Erewhon is barred from selecting him. In other words the people of an electorate are denied the chance to elect the electorate MP of their choice because he or she happens to be a list MP. I consider that it is quite natural that a list MP should aspire to ‘step up’ to an electorate when the opportunity arises. A party needs its best MP’s in electorate seats.

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  11. Daigotsu (454 comments) says:

    “I think that list MPs who fail to win a seat should be prevented from setting up offices in the electorate and pretending to be “the list MP for Auckland Central or whatever”. List MPs should be firmly focussed on national rather than local issues.”

    Seems unfair to complain that List MPs are not engaged with the public and then propose banning a way to make them more engaged. If a List MP lives in, grew up in, works in and stood for an electorate doesn’t it make sense they would have comparative expertise in issues of that electorate?

    Not to mention any law to “prevent” this would just be unworkable.

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  12. nzclassicalliberal (34 comments) says:

    I’m not complaining that they’re not engaging with the public, and I don’t think restrictions on where they can set up offices would be unworkable, but you might be right.

    I think that the reason people resent MPs coming in on the list after they’ve been rejected by their electorate is that they continue to hang around as if they’d won pretending to represent the electorate.

    If they lose the election, the fact that they grew up in the electorate and live there isn’t particularly relevant.

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  13. KH (695 comments) says:

    It’s democracy. List MPs get into parliament, or fail to, because of the voters. Not because of how they are selected. If you don’t like the list then don’t vote for it. And if other voters agree with you, then that list won’t get in. The lists we have are there because enough people voted for them. There are one or two lists where I think people would have to be barking mad to vote for them. But they have. Again – that’s democracy.
    As to DPFs point above. The number of MPs on each list is determined at each election. And we do recognise that some MPs depart. They get caught out in some scandal. Some die. etc etc. And we recognise they get replaced from the next person on the list. Actually it does not happen as frequently as I would have expected. We don’t worry about why. Or stop replacements because of how the vacancy was created. We just replace and I think that reasonable. Especially because the list has validity because enough people voted for it. And god only knows why in many cases. But again – thats democracy. We each have a vote, and strangely not everybody votes like me.
    So I don’t see any problem as to a person entering parliament because the person vacating was elected to a seat. The reason the vacancy created doesn’t matter.

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  14. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    KH has nailed it.

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  15. Graeme Edgeler (3,283 comments) says:

    Moreover, had Hekia Parata won in Mana, would the new MP not have been the next on Labour’s list? Otherwise a win in a by-election would actually change the balance in Parliament which is supposed to be decided by party votes and therefore list MPs.

    No.

    A win means exactly that.

    When Tariana Turia reisgned from the Labour Party and then won a by-election standing for the Maori Party, the government’s majority went down by one, and the number of Maori Party MPs grew by one.

    We could do it another way. We just don’t. Proportionality in the New Zealand system is about election day only.

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  16. Graeme Edgeler (3,283 comments) says:

    In the Australian Senate, they require replacement Senators to be from the same party. Why not have the party that holds a seat appoint the replacement MP?

    Because that would be an end to electorate MPs leaving their party and seeking a renewed mandate. The Australian Senate is different because they elect senators on a statewide basis in multi-member electorates. You can just take the next person from the “list” (I don’t know if that’s how they do it, but they could).

    On the main issue, your solution may be better than my one. That would provide a disincentive to parties to stand a List MP, but if the List MP was really the best candidate then they would still do so.

    If the party really wanted a replacement list MP, we could still have your system where the list MP contesting the by-election could resign before nomination day. They’d be replaced immediately, and could contest the by-election as a non-MP.

    [DPF: As it happens I think electorate MPs resigning to get new mandates is a grand standing waste of time and money. We should be like the UK and not allow resignations!]

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  17. davidp (3,580 comments) says:

    Graeme E>If the party really wanted a replacement list MP, we could still have your system where the list MP contesting the by-election could resign before nomination day. They’d be replaced immediately, and could contest the by-election as a non-MP.

    We used to have a simple electoral system. Now we have a complex electoral system that is open to all sorts of tactical voting and other gaming. The public seem to like this and reconfirmed the system in the referendum. However we now have a review that might end up either changing the system to remove all the gaming options that the public have reconfirmed, or might end up removing only some of the gaming options. In particular, the Labour and Green supporters who voted for National in Epsom in an attempt to remove ACT seem to want to change the system to remove the List MPs brought in to parliament once a minor party MP has won an electorate seat.

    What an undemocratic mess! It’s the sort of gerrymandered system that Joh Bjelke-Peterson would have been proud of.

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  18. Graeme Edgeler (3,283 comments) says:

    You don’t think we had tactical voting under first-past-the-post?

    It’s a system designed to encourage people to vote for someone they don’t want just to stop someone else getting it!

    Muldoon was able to game FPP to win two elections while his party got fewer votes than their opponents. Bolger was able to game MMP so that National’s 35.05% in 1993 was a Parliamentary majority, and the 60%+ votes cast for parties that hated the government got rolled over.

    Under first past the post, a vote for an Alliance candidate helped the National MP win. The same thing that happened in Epsom at the last election, happened in every marginal electorate in the country under first past the post: people voting for a candidate they didn’t like to try to ensure a candidate they liked even less didn’t get in. That’s pretty much what FPP is – you vote for the least offensive of two options: FPP is all tactical voting.

    Also, I’m not sure than any electoral system where giving the opposition 60% of the vote, and the government 35% of the vote, and the government gets to govern again somehow can be called simple.

    And what you really seem to be arguing for is abolition of electorates, because it’s the existence of electorates under FPP, and under MMP, which have caused all the problems you talk about. One party vote only. It’s how most(?) of the countries with proportional voting operate.

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  19. eszett (2,401 comments) says:

    Bolger was able to game MMP so that National’s 35.05% in 1993 was a Parliamentary majority

    You mean FPP

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  20. Graeme Edgeler (3,283 comments) says:

    I do indeed. Stupid TLAs.

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  21. DJP6-25 (1,376 comments) says:

    I think there would be less animus toward list MPs if the party list was chosen by members in a postal, or online ballet. They’d be ranked by members on the basis of a list of names submitted by the party. No place for secret deals in smoke free rooms.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  22. Liberal Minded Kiwi (1,570 comments) says:

    I suspect whatever system we have here, politicians and parties will figure out a way to turn it tactical.

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  23. tas (623 comments) says:

    DPF: I disagree with your conclusion. The problem isn’t list MPs becoming electorate MPs.

    You wouldn’t stop a list MP from resigning before standing in a by-election. Then, if they win, you are in the same situation as we have now. If they lose, you get two new MPs.

    The problem is how list vacancies are filled. I don’t see it as a problem, but you obviously object to people coming in from the list when there is a vacancy. So you demand that someone else comes in.

    Perhaps we should just scrap by-elections and have vacancies filled from the list. That way proportionality is maintained and there is no grandstanding.

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  24. KH (695 comments) says:

    to DjP6 at 12.35
    It really doesn’t matter how a party concocts it’s list. You don’t need to have rules about it. The Thieves Party (made up example) can rank it’s candidates on the number of successful rippoffs achieved — for all I care. I’m happy to let them rank that way.
    What does matter is how we vote. After observing the party and the makeup of the list the public decides who to vote for. That’s the inportant bit and the thing to fight over. I suggest the public might vote to keep the Thieves Party in oblivion.

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  25. s.russell (1,621 comments) says:

    Yes, it does get rather silly when list MPs stand in by-elections, but I have to agree with mikenmild, peterwn and KH: we should not take away the right of voters to decide for themselves.

    However, Davidp’s suggestion is worth some thought: Just as an MP for another electorate cannot stand without first resigning from that seat, the same could apply to list MPs. You can stand, but only if you resign (and are replaced) first. Then you have to wait until the next general election to get back in if you fail.

    Under that scheme, an MP who really really wants to be be MP for Waikikamukau can stand – but at a large personal cost should they fail.

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  26. Shazzadude (526 comments) says:

    I disagree, parties should be able to put forward the best available person for the seat, whether it’s a list MP or someone not in parliament. If the electorate don’t like that person, or the consequences of electing that person, they can vote for someone else, simple.

    Making further reductions on who or who can’t stand only reduces democracy.

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