National response to MMP review proposals

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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