Glaister on MMP review

May 15th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve embedded below the submission from on the review. Stephen argues well against some of the other submissions (including my own) on various issues, so I thought it was worth highlighting his arguments. First he argues against lowering the 5% threshold too low:

But the micro-parties that have flourished under the 5% threshold in NZ (principally because of the one electorate seat waiver) have tended to be simpatico with at least one major party. The sorts of micro-parties that no (or minimal) thresholds would grant representation would be much more selfstanding, and we’d predict, much more fractious and problematic as partners than the sorts of tame micro-parties that have flourished under a waiver-encrusted 5% threshold have been.

A good point. He argues to retain the one electorate threshold saying :

(it) creates incentives for micro-parties to do proportionality-enhancing deals with (interested, politically compatible) larger parties rather than pure overhang, antiproportional deals

He also states:

The threshold expresses a phobia of micro-parties in parliament. But since MMP is a mixed electoral system, parties can get members into parliament anyway if they win electorates. But if a party is going to have a parliamentary delegation anyway (notwithstanding the threshold) then our phobia of micro-parties recommends allowing it to have as many MPs as possible compatibly with proportionality. Additional proportionality itself is valuable, of course, but so is non-trivial team-hood for parliamentary delegations.

This is the best argument for the one electorate threshold. I still don’t like it though because it encourages tactical voting, rather than people voting for the best candidate in an electorate. Stephen also deals with the argument that it is unfair:

A threshold+waiver regime is logically just a disjunction of two boundary rules. Standard, tempting, childish mewling about what are always, partially arbitrary boundaries [24a, 24b] is then sent into overdrive by the target-rich environment of a more complicated, disjunctive boundary.

I especially liked his use of “wah wah” in the submission. As I said I obviously don’t agree with Stephen on everything, but his submission is the best defence of the status quo I have seen.

Glaister

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9 Responses to “Glaister on MMP review”

  1. backster (2,172 comments) says:

    If the 5% threshold is abolished we can have a multiplicity of different points of view like…Greece.

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  2. Nick R (507 comments) says:

    My problem with the “Epsom exception” rule for minor parties who win an electorate is that it is basically a hangover from FPP. One notable aspect of FPP – which is either a strength or a weakness, depending on your perspective – is that it treats geography as being more important than overall support. A party which has 20,000 supporters in one electorate is more likely to win a seat than a party with 200,000 supporters spread evenly across the country. The Epsom exception continues with this approach by treating parties differently, and more favourably, if they have support which is concentrated in a single electorate, compared with parties whose support is less geographically concentrated. That concentrated support might be more or less genuine (for example, as with Peter Dunne in Ohariu), or tactical (as with John Banks in Epsom).

    This might have made sense when transport was by horse or sailing ship and people could only really access a local MP to represent them. It makes much less sense now, as far as I can see.

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  3. s.russell (1,642 comments) says:

    My view is the exemption should be abolished.

    The first reason for this is to reduce the incidence of micro parties and the potential for instability they bring.

    It is fair to note, however, that such parties often get in to Parliament at least partly on the back of the acquiescence of larger parties. Where this is so, there are large constraints on the behaviour of such micro parties: they have to stay on-side with their major party “sponsor” and rocking the boat is liable to be ultimately suicidal.

    Unfortunately, such arrangements have the effect of encouraging the proliferation of micro-parties as it makes it vastly easier for them to gain representation in Parliament and creates a powerful incentive for larger parties to facilitate that.

    The second reason is the shenanigans surrounding the threshold conditions. These have undermined the fairness of outcomes, disgusted the public, and damaged the legitimacy of the system.

    The explicit or tacit endorsements of Rodney in Epsom, John Banks likewise in Epsom, Peter Dunne in Ohariu, Jim Anderton in Wigram and Jeanette Fitzsimmons in Coromandel have all to varying degree attracted public distaste.

    The third reason is the difficulty this creates for voters. People should not have to guess how their vote will affect the outcome of an election, or whether it will be effective – especially when that effectiveness depends not on their own voting but that of a limited group in a specific electorate far away. They should not have to be hanging on opinion polls in Epsom to decide how to cast their party vote.

    The fourth reason is fairness. It believe it is unfair that a party with 2 per cent of the vote should gain list seats in Parliament while a party with 4 per cent does not – purely on the basis that the former party has some concentrated support or a charismatic candidate in one particular geographical location, or because of some cosy relationship with a larger party which is prepared to “give” it a seat.

    Eliminating the one-seat let-out clause would go a long way toward resolving all of these problems (though not completely, see section 8).

    The incentive for large parties to make arrangements with small parties to give them a seat would be drastically reduced. The potential reward for this would be cut from up to three seats to (statistically) between 0.4 and 0.5 of a seat (allowing for parties which do not reach the threshold dropping out of the seat allocation).

    The incentive for small parties to exist would also be drastically reduced, as their chances of success would be far smaller: the 5 per cent threshold would become real, and the chances of winning an electorate would be greatly reduced as large parties (and their supporters) would have minimal incentive to help them out.

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  4. rg (214 comments) says:

    The point I think is overlooked is that the Electoral review is about ensuring representation is maximised. Governance is not the objective. Parliament is The House of Representatives. It should be 120 people who represent us who then make decisions based on majority vote. The Party system is just how these representatives get together to pass law, in many ways it is a corruption of our representation but that is by the way.
    So the review should only be concerned with representation, the ramifications of having lots of independants or micro pary’s is not their concern. The fact that 60000 people lost their vote at the last election and are not now represented in parliamnet is their concern. A one seat threshold is the only way to guarantee the best representation for all. As for the best governance? Does it really matter with the bunch of dullards we have in parluiament these days?

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  5. eszett (2,410 comments) says:

    backster (1,479) Says:
    May 15th, 2012 at 10:22 am

    If the 5% threshold is abolished we can have a multiplicity of different points of view like…Greece.

    Greece has 7 Parties in parliament (we have eight!), all those 7 parties are above 5%, even though Greece has a 3% threshold.

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  6. stepheng (25 comments) says:

    @Nick R. Modern transport and communications notwithstanding, surely there’s still something to the idea of there being relatively natural communities of interest based on location (not unlike the relatively natural communities of interest that well-drawn national boundaries reflect) to which it then makes sense to assign MPs. We could easily partition the alpha-order of the general roll into 63 cells and assign 1 MP to each cell, but we’d never do that precisely because in that case there’d be no communities of interest independent of the classification scheme itself. In general, I’d say that only countries that are 10% the size of NZ (or less) – e.g., Israel, Netherlands – can seriously maintain that there’s only a single location-based community of interest, hence seriously consider doing without any location-based representatives.
    @s.russell. I don’t see any likelihood that, say, 2-3% parties will wither away. Rather, those sorts of political communities and mini- power-bases bubble up in all democracies all the time, and seem likely to continue to do so. The questions then concern what those voters will do and how the electoral system can and will accommodate them. Assuming we aren’t prepared to do away with thresholds, then a certain amount of strategizing is inevitable (not everyone will be happy being quixotic). My argument then is that electorate seat waivers channel that inevitable strategizing in a relatively benign way, and losing them does the reverse.
    @rg. You say that the Electoral Commission’s review should only be concerned with representativeness, but that’s never been the sole desideratum. The original 1986 commission distinguished between moderate and extreme forms of proportional representation, and urged the former. That *is* NZ’s tradition now, and mostly just begging the question against it won’t and shouldn’t fly in my view.

    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

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  7. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    If the 5% threshold is abolished we can have a multiplicity of different points of view like…Greece.

    Greece has 7 Parties in parliament (we have eight!), all those 7 parties are above 5%, even though Greece has a 3% threshold.

    Nah. If we abolish the 5% threshold, we’ll become like that other state with no threshold at all: the effectively one-party state, South Africa.

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  8. Seán (397 comments) says:

    DPF said: This is the best argument for the one electorate threshold. I still don’t like it though because it encourages tactical voting, rather than people voting for the best candidate in an electorate.

    A fair comment David, but then lowering the % threshold will not satisfy this even after abolishing the one electorate seat threshold….though STV would. Completely, and I think you know this. Without STV, a 5% threshold is still better than something less, all things considered (single electorate must be honoured).

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  9. Seán (397 comments) says:

    Graeme Edgeler said: “If we abolish the 5% threshold, we’ll become like that other state with no threshold at all: the effectively one-party state, South Africa.”

    Or like Israel, with 13 parties (totalling 120 seats) and the chance of parliament lasting a full term akin to one winning Lotto.

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