Trying to win via overhang

The Green Party are once again showing their commitment to principles are incredibly expendable when it comes to political gain. They are now trying to engineer an election result which would result in a Government which had more votes cast against it, than for it.

Now to appreciate the of this, one has to look at and the major principle or virtue of MMP. It is a proportional voting system where a party gets representation in Parliament in proportion to party votes cast for it. The have strongly supported MMP, and one of the reasons so many supported it was because of the 1978 and 1981 situation when National formed a Government despite having less votes than Labour.

Now the Greens are trying to engineer a deliberate over-hang situation, which would result in a non proportional result. This is their suggestion that Maori roll voters should give their party vote to Greens and electorate vote to in order to create an over-hang.

First we need to look at how over-hang happens. It happens when a party wins more electorate seats than its share of the party vote would entitle it to.  It is hard to eliminate entirely unless you abolish electorate seats. We currently have an over-hang of one seat as the Maori Party won four electorate seats and their party vote only entitled them to three seats.

It is also possible that this election could see ACT, United Future or Progressive with over-hang if their leaders retain their seats but their party vote is around 0.7% or less.

So we already have over-hang, but it is what I call accidental over-hang. The Maori Party, ACT, United Future and Progressive all want to increase their party vote.

But what the Greens are calling for, is for Maori roll voters to vote in such a way to ensure over-hang, to gain parties of the left more seats in Parliament than their party vote entitles them to. Here is how it works. Let us say the Maori Party wins all seven Maori seats. Now if they get 6% party vote, then the Maori Party will have eight MPs – one list MP and seven electorate MPs.

The Greens are saying, those Maori Party voters should give their party vote to the Greens. Now in an extreme example if those 6% all gave the Greens their party vote, then the Greens would gain an extra eight List MPs, while the Maori Party would still have seven MPs – all seats. That means a Parliament of 127.

And this could change who gets to form the Government. Let’s say National gets 51% of the vote and 62 MPs. They should get to be the Government under MMP – this is exactly what MMP is meant to guarantee.

But by this strategy of deliberate vote splitting to ensure over-hang, then Labour, Greens and Maori Party could gain 65 MPs instead of the 58 they would have on the party vote only, and get to form a Government which only a minority of NZers voted for.

So whenever the Greens talk about any sort of principle when it comes to MMP or electoral law, you should remember that they are proposing a plan which is without principle and designed to secure power for the left, even if that goes against what the majority of NZers want.

Now some people could say, hey this is a loophole in MMP, and one should exploit any loophole you can find. The fact is though this loophole is more a design issue (can’t really easily fix it), and one which no party up until now has tried to really exploit. For the last 12 years various people have tried to convince National to try and do what the Greens are talking about. How it would be done is National splits into two parties – one contests the party vote and no electorates, and one contests electorates only. They would be seperate parties but co-operate together like the Libs and Nats in Australia. This would result in National getting 30 seat overhangs. Labour would then probably do the same and you’d basically have a meltdown of the MMP system (or a 190 seat Parliament!).

So the consequences of what the Greens are trying to do are severe. They are not only trying to frustrate the will of the voters, but they endanger MMP. For let me tell you that if they actually succeeded with their plan, and engineered a deliberate over-hang which changed the election result, the backlash would be nasty and massive. MMP would go, as the main rationale of MMP would have been discredited. Now FPP supporters might like that, but for the Greens as supporters of MMP to act in such a way is unprincipled and shameless.

The Greens, like all parties, are entitled to ask voters on teh Maori roll to vote for them with their party vote. But that should be on the basis of wanting Green party policies implemented and/or to get more Green MPs into Parliament. But they are not doing that. Instead they are arguing on the basis of overhang, that people should vote Green:

The question that Maori voters are asking though is that if the Maori party wins 6 electorate seats (it thinks it can win seven) is it worth also giving a party vote to the Maori Party? Last election each seat in Parliament was worth about 20,000 votes. So the answer is yes, a party vote for the Maori Party can deliver another parliamentary seat but only if there are about another 140,000 votes to go with it and help it climb above the seat overhang the Maori Party is expected to have. In other words, Maori voters who are leaning towards the Maori Party would need to give 7 times as many votes to the Maori Party to get one seat in parliament as they would to the Green Party.

They should abandon such arguments and retain a shred of principle. An MMP election should be decided by which parties get the most party votes. If they want to use overhang to gain power, then they should support the electoral system which effectively does precisely that.

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