In defence of MMP and how to fix it

By   /   October 5, 2017  /   23 Comments

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The delegitimisation of any possible Labour led change of Government requires not only an attack on Jacinda, Winston and the Greens for not willing to work with National, but it also needs the system of MMP to be defaced and denigrated as well.

The cacophony of mainstream corporate media rushing right wing pundit after right wing pundit to the opinion pages to decry MMP has reached fever pitch.

The delegitimisation of any possible Labour led change of Government requires not only an attack on Jacinda, Winston and the Greens for not willing to work with National, but it also needs the system of MMP to be defaced and denigrated as well.

What few New Zealanders seem to realise is that our Parliament is one of the most powerful in the world. Because we have no upper chamber to act as a hand break, a bare majority of the Chamber is all that is required to read a bill into law within a few hours under urgency.

Because our Parliament is so powerful, and because First Past the Post kept producing unjust results where a National minority kept winning power, we elected to have MMP because it forces big Parties to negotiate with other interests to temper the legislative power they gain as a Government and also to make Parliament far more representative of the people they are Governing.

You know, actually being a democracy where the peoples voice can be fairly represented rather than pretending to be a democracy.

What is happening right now with us waiting until the Special’s are counted and a negotiating process set in motion is exactly what MMP is supposed to do. The system forces big political parties to negotiate and work co-operatively with different interests to get an agenda passed, that’s a triumph of civil reason, not a broken political system that can’t call a winner on the night.

MMP isn’t perfect by any means. The greatest failure of our current system is the 5% threshold that destroys so many political movements. This lack of political movements gaining enough traction to get over 5% doesn’t just rob those movements of representation, but it robs us of new ideas and political dynamism and leaves the big old parties to dominate the entire political narrative.

Some have suggested we should scrap the threshold altogether, I think that is a dangerous suggestion that opens the door to political radicalisation and extremism. You only need to look at Israel who has a totally representative voting system and it leaves them hostage to tiny religious splinter group factions who hold any Government to ransom for hardline brutality against Palestinians.

No threshold allows extremism, what we need to do in NZ is lower the threshold, not abandon it.

You should at least need to gain some basic level of support if you want to gain political representation, and I think that threshold should be 3%.

5% requires around 100 000 voters and in a country with a small population base like NZ, that isn’t easy. If we went for 3%  you’d be looking at around 70 000 votes, that’s more manageable and removes the risk of extremists.

Giving political movements the chance to incubate and build from a 3% threshold would strengthen our representation and inject dynamism into the political spectrum.

MMP demands more power sharing, more co-operation and more interests to be taken into account than corporate farming, banks, property speculators and the rich.

We should not allow ourselves to become manipulated by our impatience and panic caused by widespread ignorance of MMP. The only reason we are suddenly questioning MMP is because the right wing have realised there’s a chance they will lose the election.

Don’t get conned into scrapping MMP, get engaged with modifying it and lowering the threshold to 3% so we can gain a more vibrant and deeper democracy.

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23 Comments

  1. PF Schroeder says:

    On the basis of standard statistical argument I think the current threshold is about right: 5% “significant” and 1% “highly significant” or in this case, 5% could be a nutters party and 1% highly likely to be a nutters party. Even if the threshold were 3% the current representation would be no different. Otherwise I completely concur with your opinion.

    • dennis D says:

      3% is clearly too high. Using that figure, TOP, the Conservative Party, Maori, Mana, Internet party would all have failed to get a seat. Do you think these parties are all “nutters”.

  2. Andrew Veale says:

    3% sounds good. The biggest distortion I think is the coat tailing policy which needs to be scrapped. Parties that win an electorate but don’t reach 3% still should just get one seat.

  3. m says:

    Yes agree Martyn we could look at lowering the threshold slightly we could also look at educating NZers on civics and how MMP works and why we ditched FPP. We Also need to increase the numbers voting. If people feel disenfranchised we need to do something about this to re-engage them again more education can help here targeted at those not voting. We have immigrants that have been here for 2 minutes and they are voting for the gnats yet we have too many NZers not voting. This in my view is not good enough and needs to change. The rich and powerful have a bigger voice than many and use it whenever it suits and they are doing it now with MMP not delivering immediately just who do they think they are. They are acting like spoilt little brats. I get very angry when I see our Maori people not voting because like Pakeha women of this country we had to fight to get the vote and when we did we were controlled by the setting up of 4 Maori seats.
    Now I have said this many times if the Maori seats are racist does that mean the people that create these seats are racist? These are issues that need to be raised and debated.

    • Strypey says:

      “We have immigrants that have been here for 2 minutes and they are voting for the gnats yet we have too many NZers not voting.”

      Any evidence for this? The reports I’ve read suggest that immigrants don’t vote for their first few elections in the country, despite being eligible.

  4. countryboy says:

    I think it pays to remember, particularly in these heady times, that, given NZ/Aotearoa is filthy rich and with a scant few 4 odd million, that, MMP was conjured up to help protect us from criminals, thieves, liars, cheats, swindlers and crooks. And that’s just the lawyers. Our politicians are dull minded and boring consequently, witless, humourless, artless, dried up little weeds and useless for much else of anything other than lying to become $-six figure puff balls and gas heads that’ve tapped into how easy it is to fool everybody some of the time. Watching our politicians is like watching someone else’s phlegm dehydrate on the foot path. Listening to them wheeze self aggrandising gasses is like listening to a poisoned fat person’s last gasp.
    This age will be remembered as the age of the liar and only the terminally honest and forthright need to concern themselves with our political affairs. It’s a free for all for the rest of the bastards.
    Imagine two opposing political parties desperately trying to out do each other by working to do the right thing by those who elected them?
    What a strange fucking world that would be..? No prisons. no hospital waiting lists, no multi billionaires to want to hang, happy teachers, more homes than humans, a population spread out into the countryside serviced by free to use high speed electric trains? Imagine ? Our universities fostering our amazing young minds to spread the Universal Word from avant garde NZ / Aotearoa?
    Instead? What do we have? This shit. What. The. Fuck?
    Swiss Family Tweedle’s looking for the Dees. ‘Idiocracy’ roots ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and spawns the likes of bennett, english, collins, parata ( Yes, little jonky. Yes… ) tolly, jonky, Big Jizza and on and on and on and on and on throughout the ages. A rag tag cadre of cheap swindlers fiddling with sheep people.
    I honestly have to laugh or I cry. You lovely guys, who try to make sense of it when there is no sense to it. Just greed. You try to give some credence to crooked behaviour and to that you add solemn dissection to a cluster fuck.
    Look. It’s super simple. So simple, that perhaps that’s it’s genius. It’s so obvious that no one sees it.

    A clue.
    From the ever brilliant Chris Trotter.

    “What’s more, by late November 1972, the New Zealand economy was going gang-busters. There was over-full employment, wages were rising ahead of inflation, and the NZ Dollar was worth more than the US Dollar! And yet, in spite of all this good economic news, the electorate turfed-out Jack Marshall’s National Government with nary a backward glance.”

    Why? Why was our economy going ‘ gang busters’?
    And why was it tipped over ? And who did it?

    Johnny Cash. Wore black.
    Long tongue liar; God’s gonna cut you down.

    https://youtu.be/eJlN9jdQFSc

    • Michael says:

      Countryboy
      At that point Britain went into the EEC, America went off the gold standard followed by the Yom Kippur War and the “oil shock”. Both had severe effects throughout the New Zealand economy. That golden time we got used to in the 1950-60s was gone. The purpose of our exports as Britain’s larder was gone after 80 years.

      That world is gone and we are chasing fool’s gold to try and return to it.

  5. e-clectic says:

    The recommendation to lower the threshold to a conservative 4% was shelved by Key and cronies.
    Of more importance, in my view, is dealing with the wasted vote debacle. The idea that you can vote for party A but it will be split up and given to parties B,C,D in the ratio of how others voted because the party you voted for didn’t meet some arbitrary threshold is completely and utterly anti-democratic.
    While the current threat of wasted votes continues, voters will steer clear of the minor parties especially if they are determined to prevent a particular major party holding sway.
    How do the TOP voters feel about the fact that just under half of their votes will go to National? And roughly 40% to Labour?

    The party vote needs to have a preference option included so that if the party you voted for doesn’t meet the threshold, you can choose a second, third, fourth etc preference and then in that sequence the first party to meet the threshold gets you vote.
    If that was in place, I could have quite conceivably voted:
    TOP 1
    Mana 2
    Green 3
    Labour 4

    The vote you cast must explicitly lead to counting towards the representation in the house – not according to others.

    • Cimino Cimino says:

      At last somebody else is pointing out the bleedin’ obvious deficiency with our mixed-member-proportional system—the absence preference voting.

      I have been advocating for preference voting—1, 2, 3, fix MMP!—to be added since 2007, in the Mahurangi Magazine.

      In addition to eliminating the wasted-vote disincentive when contemplating voting for marginal parties, ranking electorate candidates fixes a further two defects: 1) The triennial confusion over the purpose of the two ticks; 2) and spoiler effect that allows the less-preferred of the, for example, Labour or National candidates to win when there is a strong Green candidate.

      However, I also believe that the threshold should be lowered, initially to 4%.

  6. Richard Christie says:

    I would like to see measures to disallow political opportunists whose parties attract a tiny % of the vote, such as Peter Dunne, gaining access to ministerial power and salaries.

    These parasites are effectively bribed into supporting governing parties. Or, they hold the larger parties to blackmail, dependant on the point of view. Both viewpoints are abhorrent.

    Simply legislating against ministerial positions and salaries for parties with under the threshold might go a long way to curbing this practice. Politicians so elected will have salaries pegged at backbench rates and might place greater weight on principle over personal gain/power when considering where to place their support.

  7. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    I would have gone with a threshold of 2.5%, but then I’ve always been picky and precious…

    … oh, and a ‘hand break’ is what happens when you pull on the handbrake and the lever comes off in your hand (and yes, that has happened to me before!).

    Above all Bomber, you are right about MMP. We really don’t want to go back to the horrible old days of FPP.

    It was shit and undemocratic..

  8. Aaron says:

    I don’t think Israel is a very good example, their main parties are pretty bonkers. If we had a 1 seat threshold that would still require 20,000 kiwis to vote for it – hardly a fringe level of support. AT the very least make two seats so the likes of TOP would have made it through

  9. Cemetery Jones says:

    3% seems fair to me. TOP would have been in if they’d been pitching for 3% instead of 5%. I guess that means the Conservatives would have made it too, but it would seem as far as they are concerned that things have a way of working themselves out…

  10. Draco T Bastard says:

    Because we have no upper chamber to act as a hand break

    Can people please stop spreading that lie. Upper houses do not act as handbrakes or in any other way to ensure good legislation.

    Just look to the US, which has such an Upper House, and the crap legislation that gets enacted there. As well as the UK for that matter.

    Yes, our parliament has far too much power but that’s because they can ignore the constitution and pass legislation that goes against it and thus changing it at will.

    You know, actually being a democracy where the peoples voice can be fairly represented rather than pretending to be a democracy.

    No, it still left us being an elected dictatorship pretending to be a democracy.

    You only need to look at Israel who has a totally representative voting system and it leaves them hostage to tiny religious splinter group factions who hold any Government to ransom for hardline brutality against Palestinians.

    That’s the problem with representative democracy. Actual democracy, where the people were deciding upon the policies, would remove that.

    No threshold allows extremism, what we need to do in NZ is lower the threshold, not abandon it.

    We have Act in parliament and that’s an extremist group. So were the Conservatives which would have gotten in with a 3% threshold.

    You should at least need to gain some basic level of support if you want to gain political representation, and I think that threshold should be 3%.

    It should be enough to allow one seat. So, 0.83% for a 120 seat parliament. Of course, we should be looking to extend parliament to 140 seats.

    Giving political movements the chance to incubate and build from a 3% threshold would strengthen our representation and inject dynamism into the political spectrum.

    Political movements already have that but the chances are they’re not going to get into parliament because it’s unlikely that they’re going to get past the high threshold.

    MMP demands more power sharing, more co-operation and more interests to be taken into account than corporate farming, banks, property speculators and the rich.

    It’s still an elected dictatorship with the power held by an allowed few.

    The only reason we are suddenly questioning MMP is because the right wing have realised there’s a chance they will lose the election.

    Ah, but is it we who are questioning it or the talking heads as they try to get it so that National are in power permanently?

    • Sam Sam says:

      Ummm, huh?

      You left a few things out young boy. In a constitution written by yourself NZDF would recruit conscripts payed in ciggies and food if I remember correctly. And 2000 ballistic missiles denying adversaries the use of New Zealand’s approaches by sea. Never mind underwater approaches. .

      Also your first paragraph is anti upper house. Then the second and third paragraph says Parliment is just to strong. I skipped the rest after looking at my brains.

      Personally I am a fan of the military proverb: Quantity has a quality all of its own. And God favours those with the bigger tank battalions. Lord knows socialists didn’t believe in God (And neither do I believe in western religion specifically) but they did swear by the bigger tank battalions (over rated if you ask me).

      And so to is your spin doctoring overrated.

  11. Lachlan says:

    Removing the threshold doesn’t let small radical parties hold the government to ransom. Look at Germany! The not-quit-Nazi party is now the third-largest party in the Bundestag. If Merkel wanted to form a majority with just one party, she could just give them a ring. But she doesn’t. Instead of working with the radical racists on her right or the relatively radical anti-capitalists on her left, she’ll form a government with the Greens and the FDP. Every party has options.

  12. Danyl Strype says:

    A lot of people don’t seem to be paying attention to all the FPP election around the world that are still producing third party candidates and requiring complicated coalition deals to create a working majority in government. Just look at the last UK election where the Conservatives had to form a coalition with the DUP to prevent Labour forming a minority government with its allies.The Winston factor, where a populist figure holds the balance of power, has about as much to do with MMP as Nigel Farage or UKIP do.

    I would like to see a system where a supermajority of elected regional governments could over-rule parliament. That would provide the local oversight people want from electorates, and MMP could be replaced with a house elected entirely by party vote. The MMP mixture will always be a bit of a mess.

  13. Jack says:

    Maybe tag it to the countries growth rate. Over the next year the NZ economy will more or less flat line while our expenses continue to go up and our social problems keep getting worse. I struggle to see what’s bright about this future but then I don’t tory think myself to sleep. They better hope they don’t suddenly wake up with a nasty jolt.

  14. Afewknowthetruth says:

    We need a system akin to tribal societies in which leadership eventually comes to those who have demonstrated courage, wisdom and compassion throughout their entire lives.

    That some idiot with money -often inherited- can buy their way into power by paying advertising agencies and putting up billboards is disgusting.

    That some compulsive liar can churn out a load of garbage on a television so-called debate without being challenged -indeed the orchestrators of these television performances usually bend over backwards to allow propaganda and misrepresentations to be presented because their agenda is not one of truth- is disgusting.

    That banks and corporations can sponsor people with ‘no brains’ and with dubious morals into positions of power is disgusting. That they can keep doing it over a period of decades is more than disgusting. It is criminal.

    That parliament is riddled with lawyers who are scientifically and financially illiterate is disgusting. That people who are scientifically and financially illiterate make the decisions that determine the future of the country is more than disgusting: it is criminal.

    The fact is, we have ‘the best democracy money can buy’. And as the system becomes ever more corrupt and ever more controlled by a clique of opportunists and has-beens, we will witness ever-greater transfer of wealth from those who have too little to those who have far too much.

    All corrupt empires follow the same path in their terminal stage -one of greed and corruption accompanied by outlandish expenditure on monuments to stupidity at home, and participation in unwinnable wars away from home.

    The key to remaining sane is to recognise the political system in NZ for what it is – a sage show, a puppet performance, a freak show (as George Carlin put it) all carefully scripted to confuse and control the masses while facilitating the agendas of the controllers (the international banks and corporations and their opportunists)- and disengage from it as much as possible. There is no way the agendas of international banks and corporations can be challenged because they own the system.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls8RXqyZDsk

  15. Jeremy Rose says:

    Israel does have threshold of 3.25 percent. It was introduced in an effort to disenfranchise Palestinian political parties. It’s extremely hard for Palestinians, who make up 20 percent of Israeli citizens, to reach that threshold: which is why there is a United Arab List party (which includes the communist Hadash party and an Islamic party.) You’re right that Israel didn’t have a threshold for decades. But sadly the nutty parties you refer to have no problem getting more than five percent of the vote.
    The Royal Commission recommended that there be no threshold for Maori parties – in recognition of the fact that it is incredibly difficult for a minority to get to anything close to the five percent threshold. (Danish parties in Germany have a similar arrangement.)
    Personally, I think setting the threshold at a level that entitles to the party to at least two MPs would be great.