Which way will the Maori Party jump?
(NB United Future will go with National).
No Right Turn has thought about options for the Maori Party after the election. He asks, which way will the Maori Party jump?
He offers three alternatives: Have cabinet posts and jump towards National, or Labour, or abstain from confidence and supply and sit on the crossbenches with a veto on legislation. That could be messy. But for some, it would be more desirable than a coalition with the party who comes a distant second.
Another option is to have a couple of Maori Party ministers outside Cabinet exercising Mana Motuhake for their people,supporting the Government on confidence and supply. This removes the problem for Maori Party MPs of collective Cabinet responsibility. But if that Government is led by the party who comes second, it will be extremely unpopular and suffer in the 2011 election, and the necessity of the 5% threshold would be questioned.
But I think there is a fifth option (and I stand to be corrected): Step, rather than jump. If both parties need the Maori Party to govern, but given the overhang (caused by the 5% threshold), one is a couple of votes short in confidence and supply, the Maori Party could conceivably have a couple of Ministers outside cabinet offering confidence and supply even if the rest of its party does not. It's a bit dodgy, but constitutionally, I don't think there is anything stopping this and to date, that's not happened. If NZ First gets in, or if left leaning voters who have switched to the right stay there, it probably won't get to that.
Many people still think we vote for a government, but it is parliament that chooses the Government now. We just pick who gets to choose. Never forget that we adopted MMP in the first place because we weren't happy that the party with the most votes did not necessarily gain power. But under MMP a party with fewer seats as well as fewer votes than the main opposition party can govern if they have the right friends - due to an overhang caused by the 5% threshold.
If a minor party forms a government with the second biggest party in Parliament, a government that governs with fewer than half the party votes may not be seen as legitimate - or seen as having a moral authority - by the wider electorate. But we don’t use moral authority to decide who governs, we use an electoral system. Calls would be made for electoral reform: from MMP with a minority of votes and seats, to FPP with parties possibly governing with less votes - but more seats. That won't solve anything as most want the party with the most votes to form a government.
The Maori Party would do well to remember that that good democratic government has to come before Maori aspirations and Maori electorate blinkeredness to Labour. A government percieved as illegitimate and undemocratic will not get Maori anywhere at all and if the Maori Party was to go with the smaller of the two main parties, many people who voted in 2008 will not vote in 2011 - including Maori. We should avoid that.
update Lew, commenting at The Standard, has some interesting comments on legitimacy and the right and ability to govern here.