Cunliffe pledges to change electoral law under urgency with no consensus

In Firstline this morning David Cunliffe said that Labour will amend the Electoral Act within 100 days of office, to remove the one seat electorate threshold in MMP.

This is absolutely appalling. A Government that will ram through major electoral law changes under urgency, probably with no select committee hearings, and without consensus, is dangerous. Labour have form for this.

It doesn’t matter that I agree that the one seat threshold should go (and submitted that way). That is not the point.

The Electoral Act is not the ultimate winner take all prize for the Government of the day.

National has bent over backwards to only make major electoral law changes which have broad parliamentary support. They even agreed to keep third party spending limits, to keep Labour and Greens happy.

The last thing we want is a Government promising to unilaterally change the Electoral Act under urgency within 100 days of an election. Any changes should go through a full select committee process at a minimum. The precedent this would set is horrific. It means any future Government can ram through changes to the Electoral Act under urgency after an election to try and help them stay in power.

Also note the timing. Labour will be quite happy to have the Mana Dotcom Alliance use the one seat threshold to help make them the Government. It’s only after the election they’ll turn their noses up at it.

UPDATE: Further reports do not make it clear whether Labour is pledging to pass the law within 100 days, or introduce it within 100 days.

Regardless no party should be declaring they will change such a major aspect of electoral law (it would have probably changed the result of the 2008 election and given Labour a 4th term) unilaterally. It is quite appropriate for parties to state their positions and ask people not vote vote for parties that have a different position. The way to remove the one seat threshold is to place pressure on all the parties (or at least the major ones) to support a change, or risk being punished by the voters. But in the absence of an agreement, a Government should not use a bare majority to tilt the Electoral Act in its favour (and make Parliament less proportional). You do what National did with the Electoral Finance Act – work with other parties on the replacement law, and compromise when necessary.

If Labour can change the Electoral Act unilaterally after the election to try and wipe out smaller parties, then how could you argue against National changing the Electoral Act to move the threshold to say 10% to wipe out the Greens?

You really really do not want to go down the path of a Government making major changes (and this is really major) to the Electoral Act without broad parliamentary support.

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