The politics of the proposed MMP changes

I missed 10,000 Green votes in 2011 when calculating the election outcomes based on the Electoral Commission recommendations. In fact it is National, not Greens, who would lose one seat.

Putting aside the principled issues, this makes the changes politically very scary for National. Without being too dramatic, it is quite possible that National would never have formed a Government since 1993, under the proposed law changes.

  • In 1996 a major reasons why NZ First went with National was that National and NZ First could govern with 61 votes, while Labour and NZ First would also need the Alliance and Peters did not want the Alliance having a veto. If National lost that advantage of being able to  solely with NZ First, Peters could well have chosen Labour.
  • In 2008, the CR parties would drop from 64 to 58 seats. The Maori Party and NZ First would hold the balance of power. People forget the Maori Party has never ever chosen National over Labour. They have only gone with National in a situation where a Labour-led Government was not possible. In 2008, Helen Clark would have offered a lot to the Maori Party to retain office – arguably more than National could.
  • In 2011, it would be like 2008, with the Maori Party holding the balance of power, and they could well choose Labour over National considering they vote with them more often in the House.

So looking backwards, National MPs will be wondering why the hell would they vote for a law change which might have seen 18 years of Labour-led Government. I suspect they see it as a long suicide note.

However they should be careful not to assume the past is the future.

Removing the one electorate threshold only has an impact is a political party can get 1.2% party vote or higher. I have doubts that ACT or United Future can do so, in a sustainable fashion. Mana though is more likely to make 1.2% with non green disaffected lefties defect from Labour. So removing the one electorate threshold may impact the left more.

Likewise on lowering the party vote threshold from 5% to 4%. On the left the Greens look set to stay well above 5% and Mana unlikely to make 4% or 5%. A 4% threshold does make it easier for NZ First to stay on, but they are unlikely to survive long-term once Peters retires or dies. So not that much benefit for the left in 4%.

On the right, National faces an existence without ACT or United Future. The Conservatives got 2.7%. Them making 5% is a hard call, but 4% is more achievable. I hope ACT survives, but if it does not that will leave room on the political spectrum for a new “liberal” party. They would struggle to make 5% but again 4% could be more achievable for them.

So while on past election results the changes would be a disaster for National, they might be beneficial in the future. From a pure self-interest point of view, National should very carefully consider the future as well as the past.

Now personally I support the three recommended changes on the basis of improving MMP, by reducing tactical game playing. But all political parties in Parliament will be looking at them from a viewpoint of “Does it make it more or less likely this will help us form Government”. That is to be expected as you can’t implement the policies that you think are good for New Zealand unless you actually get into Government.

It is clear that the changes would not have been good for National in the past. However in the future I think on balance of probabilities they would be – in the long term.

Comments (30)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment