Labour says no need for consensus on electoral reform

November 15th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

 

A bill that would lower the threshold for minor parties to enter Parliament and “put an end to tea party-style stitch-ups” has been drawn from the ballot.

 

MP Iain Lees-Galloway said the bill lowered the party-vote threshold from 5 per cent to 4 per cent and removed the coat-tail provision that allowed major parties to do deals with minor ones to help them into Parliament.

 

The Palmerston North MP’s Electoral (Adjustment of Thresholds) Amendment Bill was pulled from Parliament’s ballot today and seeks to implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission review held after the referendum.

Personally I support changing the thresholds, and my submission said so. But these sort of significant changes should only occur if there is consensus between the more significant political parties. The Electoral Act should not be some sort of grand prize which winning parties use to screw over losing parties, to try and stay in power longer – which is what Labour did last time. National has deliberately refrained from making significant changes to electoral law, if Labour doesn’t agree with them. The idea is to maintain that consensus, but it looks like Labour are ditching the need for consensus:

Lees-Galloway acknowledged he would probably struggle to get support for the bill.

“There’s no need for consensus here. Political parties just need to vote according to what they think is right,” he said

So who knows what changes to electoral law we’ll see if Labour wins.

It is worth noting that this bill does not implement the recommendations of the Electoral Commission in full. It cherry picks the recommendations they agree with, but doesn’t implement the recommendation to get rid of overhang seats or setting a ratio of electorate to list seats.

By not getting rid of over-hangs, Labour’s bill would have seen the size of Parliament in the last three elections as 127 MPs, 128 MPs and 126 MPs.

 

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59 Responses to “Labour says no need for consensus on electoral reform”

  1. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    So if every party bar one supports the bill, and the holdout is thinking of its own self interest, the bill shouldn’t proceed? Your definition of consensus is obviously different from mine. Consensus doesn’t mean unanimous.

    Why should I be surprised when this government is happy to give $30 million to Rio Tinto but can’t find any money for 29 families whose tragic loss was partly due to the incompetence of a govt dept.

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  2. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    So who knows what changes to electoral law we’ll see if Labour wins.

    Presumably the same changes proposed by this bill, ie, no coat tail provision and a lower threshold of 4%. I don’t think the sky will fall in.

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  3. Sector 7g (237 comments) says:

    Obviously you didn’t read the article Toss69. Otherwise you would have been able to see who the parties are that are only “thinking of its own self interest”. Fucking moron.

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  4. burt (8,042 comments) says:

    “There’s no need for consensus here. Political parties just need to vote according to what they think is right,” he said

    And it’s that attitude that gave us the EFA…. retrospective validations and the like.

    Labour are not fit to govern !!!!

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  5. Scott (1,739 comments) says:

    I believe that too much power is being given to these private member’s bills.This is just one of many that would significantly change our nation. In the past few years we have banned smacking, legalised prostitution, made gay marriage legal and after the election we will possibly make euthanasia legal. Now this fellow from labour wants to significantly change our Parliamentary system?

    What’s wrong with the parties actually campaigning on major issues at an election? Then the people of New Zealand could vote on these things. At the moment we are being held ransom by minority MPs promoting their own agendas in private member’s bills. This should stop. If they want a change in the electoral system then the Labour Party in this case should campaign on it in the next election. I believe it’s called democracy.

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  6. skyblue (206 comments) says:

    See the magic of Silent T is wearing off, even Roy Morgan has Nats in slight lead now. BBQ at Grants house? Take champaign though as the menfolk will need the corks if Alf gets drunk.

    ‘National Party (45.5%) now ahead of Labour/ Greens (44.5%) as Labour’s new policy on female representation drives men to support National and away from Labour’

    Link http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/5299-new-zealand-voting-intention-november-14-201311140325

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  7. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    How does Labour benefit from the overhang?

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  8. Pete George (23,353 comments) says:

    I believe that too much power is being given to these private member’s bills.

    Most Members’ Bills fail.

    It’s up to parties to make sure their Members’ Bills are appropriate. If they are they stand a chance of succeeding. Some seem to be little more than political posturing, like this one.

    It would set an awful precedent if electoral ‘reform’ took place with a bare parliamentary majority through a Member’s bill.

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  9. queenstfarmer (755 comments) says:

    Consensus doesn’t mean unanimous

    When the latest poll shows the “holdout” (as you put it) continuing to have more votes than Labour & the Greens combined, there can’t be anything approaching consensus without their support. So the status quo, which Labour wasn’t so eager to change when they were last in power, must stay.

    However Labour has shown a willingness to change electoral law to benefit itself, and appears set to again. I wonder if they take tips from Mugabe.

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  10. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    However Labour has shown a willingness to change electoral law to benefit itself, and appears set to again. I wonder if they take tips from Mugabe.

    But if Labour become the govt in 2014, they will have a mandate to make changes to electoral law. So no doubt you won’t be complaining.

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  11. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    I believe that too much power is being given to these private member’s bills.This is just one of many that would significantly change our nation.

    Really? So by lowering the threshold from 5% to 4% and removing the coat tail provision, the sky will fall in?

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  12. skyblue (206 comments) says:

    Ross69, just like Adolf Hitler had a mandate to change electoral laws in 1933. Using your basis, National have a mandate for Asset Sales then, glad we cleared that up.

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  13. OneTrack (2,837 comments) says:

    ” the Labour Party in this case should campaign on it in the next election. I believe it’s called democracy.”

    Labour don’t like that because the people might not vote for them if they told them what they were actually going to in power. The elites know what is best for us.

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  14. Nick R (500 comments) says:

    Sorry, but this is self-serving rubbish. The Govt had its chance to build a consensus over electoral reform but couldn’t be bothered because it wanted to protect ACT and United. That’s fair enough but it is also partisan politics. So let’s hear no more about the need for consensus on electoral reform from National. They have decided to use their power while in Government to decide unilaterally to make sure the electoral system continues to benefit them. They should expect Labour to take the same approach when in office (ie to ensure the system suits themselves), and make no complaints. National has made its bed and can lie in it.

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  15. James Stephenson (2,096 comments) says:

    National should bring in a bill that requires a 75% majority in the house to change electoral law.

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  16. OneTrack (2,837 comments) says:

    Ok, I will admit I am thick, but I don’t see what the great attraction of these changes are and what they will achieve. nb Coat-tailing is obviously a rort and always was so I don’t have a problem with that – what were they thinking.

    But bring these changes in and you will still have John Banks in Epsom and Peter Dunne in Ohariu, surely. Why do they (the left) think these changes would “put an end to tea party-style stitch-ups” (as if that was really a problem imho – nobody forced Epsom votes to vote the way they did). Nobody came in with Banks and Dunne in the last election anyway.

    What am I missing?

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  17. chris (593 comments) says:

    But if Labour become the govt in 2014, they will have a mandate to make changes to electoral law. So no doubt you won’t be complaining.

    Which of course points out how ridiculous our political system is. A simple majority should not be able to make significant changes to how our electoral system works. You can argue either way whether the changes in this bill are significant, but allowing simple majorities to change the electoral system means the ruling party/parties can sculpt the rules to suit themselves.

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  18. burt (8,042 comments) says:

    NZ – The fastest law makers in the west…. Funny how opposition parties don’t like it when in opposition but never change it when in power. Owen Glenn was on the money with the phrase ‘self serving’.

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  19. James Stephenson (2,096 comments) says:

    Why is coat-tailing a “rort”? The party gets no more MP’s than it’s percentage share of the vote entitles it to. It does nothing to affect the porportionality of parliament.

    I notice that nobody on the left had any problem with the electorate threshold versus 5% when Winston was using Tauranga as NZ First’s card into parliament, but it’s the end of the world as soon as it’s a party that would never support Labour.

    Ele Homepaddock’s solution is the simplest, ditch the percentage threshold for list MPs and significantly increase the members required to qualify as a political party. 5000 should do it.

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  20. chris (593 comments) says:

    The other alternative is to make the minimum number of votes to get proportional seats equal to 2 seats. That way it eliminates the “issue” with “extreme” parties getting in (we get those anyway via 1 seat electorate parties) and it’s no longer a “coat tail” provision because having an electorate seat doesn’t help other people get in. I hope that makes sense, probably not worded the best.

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  21. Nigel Kearney (922 comments) says:

    They may as well call it the Winston Peters (Protection of Baubles) Bill.

    If it’s ok for Labour to introduce this and support it, then it’s ok for National to vote it down and instead vote for a 20% threshold so the Greens and Winston are driven out.

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  22. Grendel (972 comments) says:

    remember, that coat tailing was not an issue when anderton did it to get him and a mate in in 2002, or when winston did it in 1999, the greens were going to have to use that option when they were just under 5% but special votes got them over in 1996. it was not considered an issue with Dunne got 3 people in on his electorate in 2005.

    hell go back to the first MMP election and i (sadly) recall the discussion of the talking heads on tv on election night talking about the various ways parties could get into parliament, getting under 5% but an electorate was one of the viable ways.

    it only became a ‘bad thing’ when the left realised that none of their lot were doing it, but act and peter dunn might have. had hone got a mate in (he was close in party vote if i recall), then they would have not been so bothered.

    the oddest thing is that the most noise was made when neither dunn or act got an extra mp. there was no concerted grumble against it when act got 2 mps this way in 2008. but come 2011 when no party got a coattail and the left gets its tits in a tangle about the option as they realised their opponents might get better use from it.

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  23. Rick Rowling (823 comments) says:

    Why is coat-tailing a “rort”?

    Coat-tailing isn’t a rort, it just shows up how the extra rules in our MMP mean that our MMP isn’t actually proportional.

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  24. Shazzadude (522 comments) says:

    James Stephenson: “I notice that nobody on the left had any problem with the electorate threshold versus 5% when Winston was using Tauranga as NZ First’s card into parliament, but it’s the end of the world as soon as it’s a party that would never support Labour.”

    Actually they did, Labour were infuriated when Winston got back in, and ordered a recount in Tauranga despite having no chance of taking the seat because it was hoped the National candidate would overtake Peters and eliminate New Zealand First from parliament.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the coat-tail rule as it does add to proportionality, but it is unfair to have both the coat-tail rule and a 5% threshold. It should be either both the coat-tail rule and a lower threshold, or no coat-tail and the existing threshold.

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  25. Hamish_NZ (46 comments) says:

    National should agree to support it as long as their is an amendment to ban list only parties from having any of their mp’s serve as ministers. You know to avoid the problem of having mp’s who have no experience representing a community becoming ministers. Such a provision would make about as much sense as getting rid of coat tailing, which just ensures proportionality of the party vote for mp’s who also have an electorate to look after.

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  26. ChardonnayGuy (1,190 comments) says:

    Absolutely not! We need fewer unrepresentative microparties in Parliament, not more. That’s why I would support any private member’s bill designed to get rid of carpetbagger List MPs attached to any sole constituency MP whose party also polls under the five percent threshold. However, this proposal is abhorrent to me.

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  27. Monty (966 comments) says:

    Labour will bring in the following two changes as soon as they get a chance
    1 compulsory voting
    2. Reduction of voting age to 16

    They will do this because they are self serving wankers.

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  28. burt (8,042 comments) says:

    Monty

    I think you forgot compulsory unionism.

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  29. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    You can argue either way whether the changes in this bill are significant, but allowing simple majorities to change the electoral system means the ruling party/parties can sculpt the rules to suit themselves.

    Well, it is not a simple majority…it is only one (self serving) party that opposes the changes. That should put your mind at rest.

    BTW, it is by a simple majority that has allowed the sale of state assets, despite such sales not being in the public interest and despite public opposition.

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  30. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Using your basis, National have a mandate for Asset Sales then, glad we cleared that up.

    So you agree with me that Labour will, if elected, have a mandate for electoral reform and we won’t hear a peep out of you or those on the Right. Awesome!!!

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  31. bringbackdemocracy (416 comments) says:

    Labour opposed a 4% threshold and abolition of the race based seats when MMP was introduced.

    Now they want to change the rules for the same reason, because they think it will advantage them, just like Heuln’s electoral reform bill. There is no end to their self-serving shame.

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  32. dave_c_ (217 comments) says:

    Consensus between the parties ? Consensus is illusory – it changes according to the circumstance, and can Always be changed at the most insignificant whim.

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  33. burt (8,042 comments) says:

    ross69

    You are showing us why lefties should never be given the levers of power. You Muppet’s don’t give a shit about the outcome for NZ – all you care about is that your agenda can be advanced via absolute power.

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  34. Monty (966 comments) says:

    Ross as usual you are wrong.
    asset sales were a key election platform and the Nats won the election and therefore had the mandate. This has been the subject of discussion for three years so no need to rehash.

    However changing electoral law is constitutional. My fear is that labour will do what they have done in the past and screw electoral law for their own self interest rather than what is right and good for NZ and democracy. For two years labour have harped on about the 800,000 who did not vote. They believe that those people were mainly labour / left voters. There may be merit in this. But the reality is that useless shits who lack motivation, have limited prospects in life, and don’t care about politics are also left voters. Forcing the useless buggers to vote is probably to the massive advantage of the left. Such a policy will fuck NZ permanently.

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  35. Monty (966 comments) says:

    Ross69 electoral law change is constitutional and should have very broad support. To do anything else is self serving. Remember the self serving electoral finance act? Leftard wankers

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  36. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    National has deliberately refrained from making significant changes to electoral law, if Labour doesn’t agree with them.

    Ha!

    You may recall National voted to amend the Electoral Act to abolish the rights of prisoners to vote. Who gets to vote is pretty much the most important decision in electoral law.

    Worse, the majority of MPs in the House didn’t even support the move. ACT spoke against the move, but voted in favour in the hopes of getting National to support three strikes into law (which National had originally promised to support as far as select committee.

    You supported that, which is fine, but you supported changing the law even though you fell ludicrously short of consensus.

    Once you and National support the reinstatement of the right to vote to short-term prisoners (until such time as you can actually convince others of the need for the change), then we can discuss the desire for consensus on changes to electoral law. Otherwise, I know you and they are just playing politics like everyone else.

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  37. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    @Graeme Edgeler – ahhh, the very old constitutional principle of “tu quoque” or”but they did it too!”

    I see the matter as a series of questions:

    1- Is there a good policy reason for retaining a custom that electoral reform occur on a bipartisan basis? Yes

    2- Has National breached that in the past? Yes – bad National.

    3- Has Labour breached that in the past? Yes – bad Labour.

    4- Is Labour proposiing to breach that now? Yes – bad Labour.

    It’s like saying that because Labour passed the Electoral Finance Act in such a dishonourable way, nobody could now criticise National for doing to same thing – because it would just be ‘politics’

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  38. Pete George (23,353 comments) says:

    Fair dig from Graeme but well expanded by Cato.

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  39. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    4- Is Labour proposiing to breach that now? Yes – bad Labour.

    It’s a bill going to a select committee. I can see no problem with that. We can find out if there is consensus, and if there isn’t, and Labour still wants it to happen, they can amend the bill to require a referendum. If they try to push it through from that point, then we can criticise them. And I can criticise them. And would (and have).

    But National and DPF will have a harder time criticising them, and they certainly shouldn’t be criticising in a way that includes the assertion: “National has deliberately refrained from making significant changes to electoral law, if Labour doesn’t agree with them.”

    It was that claim that most annoyed me. I wasn’t defending Labour.

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  40. burt (8,042 comments) says:

    You know our politics is rotten when political parties take the stance that they are only as bad as each other !

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  41. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    @Graeme Edgeler – ““There’s no need for consensus here. Political parties just need to vote according to what they think is right.”

    See a problem with that matey?

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  42. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    See a problem with that?

    Yes. I never said there wasn’t. In fact, I have often said that that is a problem (e.g.).

    I simply said that I wasn’t minded to listen to criticism (even criticism I agree with) from people advancing a position very recent evidence shows they don’t actually support when it suits them.

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  43. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    Everyone is going on about whether there is a consensus amongst self serving politicians. Personally I don’t care whether there is a consensus there or not. It should be whether there is a consensus amongst people for change – and I guarantee that there is not.

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  44. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Ross69 electoral law change is constitutional and should have very broad support.

    It does have broad support. You must have missed my comment that consensus isn’t unanimous.

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  45. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    asset sales were a key election platform and the Nats won the election and therefore had the mandate. This has been the subject of discussion for three years so no need to rehash.

    By the same logic, if Labour wins in 2014 and advises they intend to make minor changes to electoral law, you won’t complain because Labour, too, will have a mandate.

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  46. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    @Graeme Edgeler – right. People in politics are self-serving. Thanks for that newsflash :)

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  47. jawnbc (64 comments) says:

    Actually, if all parties just accepted ALL the recommendations and fast-tracked the changes to electoral law, this would be a wholly non-partisan issue.

    The Nats declined to do that—a lack of action isn’t the same as “waiting for consensus”.

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  48. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    jawnbc – then the argument is about who really runs the country – the law commission/public service etc who make recommendations to the government, or the people who are actually elected?

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  49. Inky_the_Red (744 comments) says:

    I would have preferred that Labour take a bill that have all the recommendation from the electoral commission. In stead they have cherry picked. The Nats have completely ignored it. So why bother to have it?

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  50. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    http://pundit.co.nz/content/the-status-quo-is-not-a-neutral-position

    See the above incredibly lame response. This is why NZ law professors have reputations for being such sophists.

    Shorter Geddis: The only reason there’s not a consensus is because you disagree with me. I think I’m right and you’re wrong. Ergo, there is no legitimate reason for a lack of consensus becuase the dissenting position is obviously wrong. That being the case, we should go ahead anyway,

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  51. Redbaiter (8,039 comments) says:

    The so called right in this country is just so incredibly naive about the force it is up against.

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  52. kiwi in america (2,482 comments) says:

    This is very simple – the Electoral Act is as close as we get to a constitution and for decades the convention (broken only by Labour in its simple majority passing of the EFA) is that there is a broad bi-partisan consensus before changes are made to the Electoral Act. This Bill will be referred to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee and it can be seen if any consensus emerges.

    If National decide that the reduction to 4% and abolishing the coattails provision is not in their best interests then opponents need to consider the numerous times the left were well served by these provisions in getting coalition partners for Labour (the Alliance, NZ First, Progressives, United and the Greens all at times were served by this status quo in helping Labour get and stay in power) and I never heard Ross 69 or Nick or other lefty apologists complaining about these provisions then….until they began to be useful to the centre right.

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  53. Graeme Edgeler (3,277 comments) says:

    This is very simple – the Electoral Act is as close as we get to a constitution and for decades the convention (broken only by Labour in its simple majority passing of the EFA) is that there is a broad bi-partisan consensus before changes are made to the Electoral Act.

    The idea that there is a convention (much less a convention that has been around for “decades”) around changes to the Electoral Act being bi-partisan is a myth.

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  54. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Yeah – I think it should be qualified by the words “significant” as in there is a convention that “significant” changes to the Electoral Act occuring without a consensus. I would define significance around materiality. If it is a change that would materially impact on the composition of Parliament it would be significant.

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  55. Changeiscoming (160 comments) says:

    I am not really comfortable with a small group of people (MP’s) messing with or adjusting the electoral system. Big things like the electoral system should be referenda decisions. For example who is to stop the MP’s agreeing to change the threshold to 10%, 30% or 1%.

    It’s ok for them to debate and even agree on a change but the final decision should rest with the public.

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  56. burt (8,042 comments) says:

    In other breaking news the Turkey’s have voted to cancel Xmas.

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  57. Anthony Tuffin (2 comments) says:

    Thresholds are arbitrary and artificial. For example, the threshold in Germany, which uses a voting system like New Zealand’s, is 5%. In the recent election there, the Free Democrats and Alternative for Germany fell just short of the threshold, so they won no seats at all. Had the threshold been set instead at 4%, both parties would have emerged with more than thirty party list seats.

    It would be far better to use a completely natural system like the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Readers may visit http://www.stvAction.org.uk for more information.

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  58. Pete George (23,353 comments) says:

    STV is proving to be a problem in local body elections, it deters people from voting.

    Why not use a more natural MMP system with low or no threshold? Large parties don’t want it, that’s why we don’t have it, but it would better reflect what voters want and remove voting distortions.

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  59. Anthony Tuffin (2 comments) says:

    Any threshold, even a small one, is arbitrary and unfair and gives an advantage to larger parties. Pete is right that MMP with no threshold would better reflect what voters want than MMP with a threshold, but STV has not deterred the Irish from voting since the 1920s or the Scottish in local elections since 2007.

    MMP is inherently unnatural. The constituency MPs are elected by the disproportionate and unrepresentative First Past The Post (FPTP) system and then, to try to correct that, voters then elect top-up MPs by party lists. Both parts of MMP (FPTP and party lists) give considerable power to political parties and restrict voter choices.

    With STV on the other hand, all MPs are elected the same way so they are all of equal status and STV increases voter choices. It empowers voters instead of parties. The site http://www.stvAction.org.uk has more details.

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