National response to MMP review proposals

September 14th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Been reading through some of the responses to the changes proposed by the Electoral Commission. National in its submission has said:

Our position is evidenced by the impacts of the proposals if projected against four of the last six MMP elections. After each of the 1996, 2005, 2008, and 2011 elections, these three proposed changes project significant adverse impacts on the ability of both major parties to form and maintain stable Governments.

This is a point the Herald editorial responds to:

National has applied the three proposals to the results of past elections and calculates that they would have reduced the ability of both main parties to form and maintain a stable government after the elections of 1996, 2005, 2008 and 2011.

In 1996 a lower threshold (4 per cent) would have brought an additional party, Christian Heritage, into Parliament with five seats. But more importantly, it would have reduced both National and Labour’s allocation by two seats.

National says “neither would have been in a position to form stable government”. But National’s coalition with New Zealand First after that election was not exactly stable and it’s hard to imagine a third conservative partner would have made things worse.

Oh it would have. NZ First placed great importance on the fact they could negotiate an agreement with just one party, without a smaller party able to veto it. Also it is by no mean certain NZ First would have gone with National, if they could not govern by themselves. It could have been a Labour/Alliance/NZ First Government.

The Electoral Commission has proposed changes which would arguably have seen National not able to form a Government in any of the six MMP elections to date. You’d have to be the most incredible optimist to think this would lead to change.

In 2008 Act wouldn’t have got four extra seats by winning Epsom, National would have got two fewer list seats and the Maori Party would have held the balance of power. That outcome would have been repeated at last year’s election. By implication, National regards the Maori Party as a less reliable partner than Act or United Future.

Of course they are less reliable. They have never ever chosen to go with National. ACT and United Future made it clear they will support National if elected. The Maori Party have never been in a position to choose between National and Labour. They have made clear they can go either way.

National also made this point:

After every MMP election, Governments have included strong minor party representation. Since the inception of MMP, there have never been less than six parties represented in our Parliament. At the last election, eight parties gained representation.

Research by the New Zealand Electoral Study also indicates an absence of almost any public support for more parties in Parliament. Just 2.2 per cent of those surveyed in 2011 believed there were not enough parties in Parliament. This compares to 47.1 per cent who believed there were too many.

I do support lowering the threshold to 4%. Those who argue it should go even lower, or be abolished are a miniscule minority of New Zealanders.

Also an interesting point from Stephen Glaister:

I want to draw the Commission’s attention to the fact that the allegedly fiendish 2008 Status Quo saw Act get 5 MPs for its 85K party votes while NZ First got 0 MPs for its 95K party vote. But under the Commission’s policy nearly exactly the reverse happens: Act gets 1 MP for its 85K party votes and NZ First gets 5 MPs for its 95K party votes. That looks almost as whine-worthy surely! And in both cases the Maori party cheerily gets 5 MPs on 56K party votes. Some progress!

A fair point.

I think the argument to change the vote thresholds are around reducing tactical voting, not around perceived unfairness of results – any threshold always will have winners and losers.

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25 Responses to “National response to MMP review proposals”

  1. AG (1,827 comments) says:

    “The Electoral Commission has proposed changes which would arguably have seen National not able to form a Government in any of the six MMP elections to date. You’d have to be the most incredible optimist to think this would lead to change.”

    Hang on a minute. The Electoral Commission’s recommendations regarding the representation threshold ARE EXACTLY THE SAME AS YOU RECOMMENDED IN YOUR SUBMISSION! (http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2012/04/submission_on_mmp_review.html) So I assume you think that National should set aside its self interest and make this change irrespective of the effect on its electoral prospects? Surely you aren’t going to change your mind on what you clearly believed to be the best set of rules, just because your Party is saying “we don’t think we can win under these rules”?

    As for whether lowering the threshold to less than 4% would lead to more parties in Parliament than at present, you (and the National Party’ submission) are ignoring the effect that abolishing the one-seat alternative would have. In fact, with a 3% threshold and no “electoral lifeboat” option, you may end up with fewer parties than at present (given that the incentive to elect Banks/Dunne/Harawira would be radically reduced).

    [DPF: You obviously do not read KB enough. I do support 4% and no one seat threshold. I have in fact blogged that these changes may be beneficial for National in the future, even though in the past they would not have been. Of course National should make a decision that pays no regard to their self-interest, but I see no reason to think they will be different to any other party in that regard.]

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  2. Pete George (23,567 comments) says:

    I do support lowering the threshold to 4%. Those who argue it should go even lower, or be abolished are a miniscule minority of New Zealanders.

    Don’t know where you get ‘miniscule’ from. In any case shouldn’t the emphasis be on democratic fairness and balance? Once you take out those choosing a higher threshhold because of vested party preference numbers would be significantly closer.

    And here’s been some significant arguements in favour of the threshhold going lower, notably from Graeme Edgeler and Andrew Geddis, lookig at it more from a democratic purist point of view. See 4% porridge.

    And I think I’ve made a strong arguement for 3% here: Strong case for 3% MMP threshold.

    And:

    Interestingly, more submitters favoured a lower threshold than favoured 4% (and as many favoured actual or effective abolition as favoured the second most popular category of 1 – 2.5%).

    (4% porridge)

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  3. AG (1,827 comments) says:

    Furthermore, National’s submission is based on a fundamental mistake. It says:

    “Our position is evidenced by the impacts of the proposals if projected against four of the last six MMP elections. After each of the 1996, 2005, 2008, and 2011 elections, these three proposed changes project significant adverse impacts on the ability of both major parties to form and maintain stable Governments.”

    But this is plain silly. You can’t look at how people voted under one set of rules, then translate those votes into results under another set of rules, and say “look at what the result would have been had those rules been in place back then” because people’s voting choices will change depending on what are the rules in place!!!! So, back in 2008, would ACT have got as many votes if Rodney Hide hadn’t held out hope of their return to Parliament – or would those votes have flowed back to National? Or would anyone ever bother voting United Future, if Peter Dunne couldn’t offer them extra seats via Ohariu? In fact, would Hide/Dunne be elected at all, if the “electorate lifeboat” rule wasn’t in place? And might some completely new political vehicle have arisen, had the 4% threshold offered more hope that it might be successful?

    So, National’s claim that “these rules would lead to less stable government” is based on a basic flaw … it’s like saying that if the rules around the breakdown in rugby had been different back inn 2007, New Zealand definately would have won the World Cup (without knowing how other teams would have adapted to those new rules and so changed their playing styles).

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  4. Positan (390 comments) says:

    To intelligent, forward looking, patriotic New Zealanders, MMP is a contempt-earning, absurd system that curtails both government and almost every expectation of realistic governmental direction. Just look at the sort of nonsense interference we’ve seen from Maori factions, Labour and the Greens. None of these factions exert any sort of positive direction as to their objectives – they’re both far too self-focused on individual benefits and irrelevant trivialities to concern themselves with what should be their primary focus.

    Up ’til recently, I’ve yearned for the simplicity of FPP – 60 members achieved far more, far more expeditiously, than today’s 121 – but now I feel the only solution is to head for straight-out dictatorship in order that the endlessly impacting fuck-ups created by the utter incompetence and touchy-feely stupidity of the ’84 and ’99 Labour administrations are expunged and expurgated. Especially so in respect of Maoridom, whose blatant self-focused stupidity has all but ended our nation’s once unique international standing as “one people.”

    Parliament needs people who are able to see the trivial for what it is, and look past it – assessing both the need for laws and whether what’s proposed is really going to be workable. As things stand, the place really needs to be cleaned out, scraped and fumigated.

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  5. rg (214 comments) says:

    The commission review said 3 % was the point where if the threshold was lower it would undermine the ability for a party to govern, so why choose 4%
    It is an arbritary figure with no science behind it other than it is above 3 and below 5.

    What no one seems to factor is that the threshold seriously screws voting with many too scared to vote for the party they want because they do not want to lose their vote.
    Last election the media and dodgy polls did a good job of frightening ACT voters.
    With no threshold and voters free to really choose the voting choices would be quite different so trying to say what would have happened under different thresholds at previous elections is pointless.

    The threshold seriously screws the vote, it forces people to vote for a large party they may not really support, it causes tens of thousands to lose their votes, it causes the unfairness between parties with electorate seats and those without.
    Sure it makes governing harder, but easy governance is not necessarily better governance.

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  6. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    I’ve said it before, but National now needs to wake the fuck up and institute a PREFERENTIAL PARTY VOTE. That is the only way they are going to have a chance at retaining power.

    What is the point of all those wasted Right votes if they are going to fall below the threshold?

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  7. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    I am still amazed that the right disintegrated after Mmp, I thought it would be the left.

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  8. samtheman (40 comments) says:

    One option I haven’t heard many people talking about is some sort of preferential system. If everyone is so scared about 2 and 3% parties being in government (I personally have no problem with democracy), why not allow them to pick a second party that their vote goes to if their party of choice doesn’t make the threshold?

    The ‘fairest’ option is for the party vote threshold to be the number of vote the least popular winning electorate candidate got. If 12,064 votes can elect Nicky Wagner in Christchurch Central, why shouldn’t 13,016 be able to elect a member of the Bill and Ben party? The fact that geography is the only thing stopping Bill or Ben from being in parliament shows just how retarded electorate seats are.

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  9. Alan Johnstone (1,087 comments) says:

    The test of a voting system isn’t does it deliver stable administration, but does it reflect the voters will. If they want stable Goverenment then they can vote for it. If they want a mixed bag of parties that squabble and create a weak administration then that’s an equally valid choice from the voters.

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  10. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    I think it’s great that the threshold has stopped child molesters from becoming MPs – twice.

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  11. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    The MMP review is one thing, but there is **also** the **constitutional review** going on “behind closed doors”. Even worse, it is being negotiated with **Maori.**

    Actually – I say “negotiated”, but it will be more like Maori saying “this is how it’s gonna be, bro…” and the cowardly appeasing Nats will roll over and say “Ok”.

    Hands up, all those who think that the Maori will make the Treaty the number-one law in NZ, to be written into every law passed here.
    Everyone? Yep, me too – I’m sure they will.

    The constitutional review is a damned sight more dangerous than the MMP review.

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  12. Reid (16,471 comments) says:

    I lost interest in being even the least interested in MMP when I witnessed the entire political structure on both sides apart from ACT and a few other lone voices completely ignoring the referendum apart from the minimum necessary lip service required to avoid the politically challenged from waking up and smelling the fact that not only was absolutely no counter-view was being seriously and vigorously promulgated, all counter-views were being assiduously ignored. And of course our idiot watchdog who insists on acting as much like a watchdog as a half-dead, blind, starving Lassie with only three legs and cancer does, never says anything about that at all but simply pretends as if such peculiar political behaviour on our vital electoral mechanism is simply common-or-garden de rigeur everyday thing rather than what it was which was unusual and outrageous in every sense of the ethical spectrum no matter where you look.

    Both sides colluded to keep MMP, deliberately through silence on discussing the alternatives on offer in great and repeated detail night after night thereby denying the country the opportunity for healthy debate on something which belongs to the people – our democracy, not their democracy, OUR democracy – and watching their silence night after night just made me want to puke. Who do these people think they are? These people, our current parliamentarians, dare after this, to claim they’re good, true, just, wise, honest leaders? Get the fuck out of here.

    The reason I’m so annoyed, disappointed, saddened and quite frankly surprised is because I thought, naively that some politicians were better than that. Of course one knows – duh – why it happened. Because campaigning to get rid of smaller cousins is never done by smaller cousins, is it. And if big cousins try it on why all the smaller cousins do is point to the big bad meanies and then the electorate’s useful brigade gets a five alarm callout. Yes I get all of that. The reason I’m disappointed is because this is why we elect people in the first place. To serve our interests not their interests. And they didn’t do our bidding on this last chance ever referendum, they did theirs and this binds of course, our children, grandchildren and so on and on and so who the fuck did they think they were, influencing this decision of ours not theirs?

    MMP design reminds me of lipstick on a pig, for some reason.

    OTOH you can argue that MMP caused all of this by fragmenting the power groups

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  13. Reid (16,471 comments) says:

    Edit: ignore that last sentence. I missed the edit window.

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  14. Kevin (1,122 comments) says:

    What thor42 said. The government is in secret talks to see how they can bring in a racist constitution. Why? Why would national do this to us you say. A simple example is how much will ownership of the beaches be worth to the the county’s elite. Go to Muriel newmans site, read the articles, weep, and then distribute and sign the petition. http://www.nzcpr.com/

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  15. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    …these three proposed changes project significant adverse impacts on the ability of both major parties to form and maintain stable Governments.

    I guess it was an easy mistake for National Party spokestypes to make, but in fact the electoral system isn’t there to ensure National or Labour get to form govts.

    Those who argue [the threshold] should go even lower, or be abolished are a miniscule minority of New Zealanders.

    Well, yes. The majority never have the slightest qualms about shafting a “miniscule minority.” It’s called “tyranny of the majority,” and it’s not generally looked on as a positive feature to include in electoral systems.

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  16. Reid (16,471 comments) says:

    …in fact the electoral system isn’t there to ensure National or Labour get to form govts.

    Yes but it needs to be and what about that doesn’t everyone already understand?

    It’s called “tyranny of the majority,”…

    No it’s called rule by the fragmented interest groups all of whom have to be bought on board with every single policy all the time and a bigger time-waster and big-idea-preventer hasn’t been invented. That’s why they imposed it on the Germans. It prevents radical propagation which of course affects both negative and positive radicalisations.

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  17. Anthony (796 comments) says:

    Yep, the smallest threshold is the fairest.

    Rather disappointed that DPF has to resort to emotional arguments like “miniscule percentage” in order to bolster a rather weak argument for going no lower than 4%. And to pretend that people wouldn’t have adjusted their voting if the one electorate threshold hadn’t applied!

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  18. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    How I’d do it:
    100 MPs. 1%=1MP.
    The result is rounded down to an integer, so 1.9%=1MP. (This has the added benefit of nearly always having <100 MPs.) Effectively the threshold is 1%.

    Get rid of Maori seats – they'll be voting proportionately, so what's the point in race-based seats?

    Lower the threshold for passing laws to 52 minus the total number of parties. This way all the "1%ers" can't slow up things by acting like brats.

    So if National gets 42%, CCCP gets 2%, ACT 1%, Greens get 15%, Labour 20%, NZF 12%, and Maori 8%, National should only require 52-(7 parties)=(45 seats) to form a "majority" government. With a low threshold we need to ensure we're not held to ransom by the tiny parties.

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  19. rakuraku (162 comments) says:

    How do Maori’s get elected to Government if we do not have Maori Seats.

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  20. Chuck Bird (4,884 comments) says:

    “How do Maori’s get elected to Government if we do not have Maori Seats.”

    There could be two ways. The first is how they do now. The join a party and either stand for a electorate or get on the list. There are plenty who do that successful not. The second way if the electoral commission rules were followed completely would be for Maori based parties not to have a threshold to pass. This would not satisfy some purest but it would be a sensible compromise ideally with a sunset clause on not having a threshold.

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  21. Manolo (13,780 comments) says:

    How do Maori’s get elected to Government if we do not have Maori Seats.

    C’mon. Do you consider yourself handicapped or a lesser citizen?
    Do what the rest of New Zealanders do: join a political party or run as an independent.

    One law for all citizens. No exceptions should ever be made on racial grounds.

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

    How do Maori get elected to Government if we do not have Maori Seats.

    Answer the question of how did the following all get elected and you may have your answer
    [Apologies if I missed anyone]

    Paula Bennett
    Simon Bridges
    Tau Henare
    Hekia Parata
    Jami-Lee Ross
    Mike Sabin

    Darien Fenton(?)
    Shane Jones
    Moana Mackey
    Louisa Wall

    David Clendon
    Denise Roche
    Metiria Turei

    Brendan Horan
    Winston Peters

    Also consider that if there were no Maori seats, there would likely be some majority Maori general seats, including probably one in Northland and one the East Coast (and the demographics of some other electorates would change markedly too).

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  23. Paulus (2,627 comments) says:

    It is possible that many many New Zealanders do not give a F… for any electoral system, possibly inured by the complications of MMP, which is entirely left wing driven, by the so called media, and the various opposition parties which allows them to dictate the political terms.
    Like cancer it is growing slowly, but cannot be exorcised.

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  24. Chuck Bird (4,884 comments) says:

    I will add Rino Tirikatene and Parekura Horomia just to support Graeme’s point that with no Maori seats Maori would adequately represented.

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  25. pq (728 comments) says:

    Watch me with your eyes brother Farrar, I recognise you absolutely, vote NZ first, I support NZ first,
    and the assets sales are dead already, and we do own the water.

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