The Green Party has put forward a members bill which, among other things, advocates lowering the MMP threshold from 5% to 4%. Let us set aside the terrible, terrible optics of a political party that is part of the government, and hovering just above the 5% threshold in the recent round of polls – and which routinely under-performs the polls on election day – attempting to alter the electoral system to its own advantage and consider the 5% threshold itself.
The self-interest is indeed massive.
In terms of performance, here is the difference between their result and the last ONCB poll:
- 1999: -0.8%
- 2002: -1.0%
- 2005: +0.3%
- 2008: -2.3%
- 2011: +1.1%
- 2014: -1.3%
- 2017: -1.7%
So if the Greens are at 6% in the polls, it is quite possible they’ll end up under the 5% threshold in an actual election.
Our version of MMP was copied from the German system and the threshold was there to prevent the rise of extremist political parties, something that nation was apprehensive about for obvious reasons. That didn’t seem like a realistic fear for New Zealand so copying such a high threshold seemed unjustifiable. But now that we’re seeing a global rise of extremist parties, a fascist government in Brazil, etc, it no longer seems like such an abstract fear.
But my main problem with lowering the threshold is that it will also probably save New Zealand First, and it will make the New Zealand First model of politics so much more viable.
This is a model in which you fundraise from exploitative, extractive industries (fishing, forestry), campaign on populist issues (Peters’ flagship policies in 2017 were lower immigration, a referendum to ditch the Māori seats and to remove GST on fruit and vegetables), ditch all of your policies and issues as soon as the election is over, and use your position in the political centre to maximise your personal power.
It means Peters gets to operate as a de facto co-prime minister, he gets to veto any attempts to regulate his corporate donors, he gets to unilaterally change our long-standing foreign policy towards China without bothering to tell the actual prime minister, let alone the Cabinet, his deputy gets given three billion dollars to just give away to whoever he wants, and none of this has any mandate from the public whatsoever.
An excellent description of NZ First.
The 5% threshold hasn’t saved us from Peters but this is because he’s one of the most brilliant politicians the country has ever seen. His model is a very successful hack of the MMP system, but you have to be Peters to pull it off – otherwise everyone would do it: after all, you get near total political power with virtually no votes.
But Peters was kicked out of parliament after his last shambolic tenure in government and, based on the current polls, he’ll be wiped out at the next election, so it is (hopefully) not a sustainable model, even for him. The 5% threshold is what protects us from countless imitators reproducing the hack and wrecking our government. That is what the fence is protecting us from. We’d be fools to lower it.
A fair argument.