Possible changes to MMP

The Herald reports:

The most unpopular features of could be ditched if voters opt to keep the electoral system in the referendum on it at next year’s election.

Justice Minister Simon Power revealed yesterday that if voters decide to keep MMP, it will be reviewed by the Electoral Commission.

Among the subjects Mr Power listed for such a review are:

Dual candidacy, which enables MPs who lose an electorate seat to be returned to Parliament through the party list. Examples are Labour’s Lynne Pillay and Rick Barker.

Closed party lists, where the party list is chosen by the party rather than a voters’ ranking of candidates.

Thresholds of 5 per cent and one electorate seat, under which where a party with less than 5 per cent of the vote can get seats in Parliament if it wins an electorate seat.

Overhang, where a party winning more electorate seats than its share of the party vote increases the size of Parliament above 120 MPs. In 2008, the Maori Party got two more electorate MPs than its share of the party vote, taking Parliament to 122 MPs.

The balance between the number of list and constituency MPs.

Having the review done by the Electoral Commission is rather brave, as they may recommend changes MPs do not want. For example, there is no way parties will vote to change to open lists, rather than party-selected closed lists.

The dual candidacy issue is rather difficult. People don’t like the electorate MP they booted out, remaining an MP, still based in their electorate. I fully understand that. However I don’t think many people seriously think that (for example) Chris Finlayson should not be a List MP because he was the near-token National candidate for Rongotai. If you have such a ban, then it simply means high calibre MPs like Chris will not stand in an opposition held seat at all.

One possible compromise is that you do not ban joint candidacy, but if an electorate MP loses their seat, they are ineligible to be elected as a List MP. That would give electorate MPs an incentive to fight harder to keep their seats, and if they think they may not, they can decide whether to seek a list only nomination and let someone else stand for the seat.

Personally I don’t favour any ban on joint candidacy, but if there is to be a ban, I would rather it is partial, not total.

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