I’ve finally had a chance to have a decent read of this article I mentioned on the blog last week. It discusses whether a referendum on MMP is likely to lead to electoral reform.
The Government has promised a binding referendum no later than 2011 on whether voters want to consider alternative electoral systems to MMP. If voters don’t want MMP, National is to put forward suggestions to replace it. But it could just as easily replace it with any system it wants to provided it has a simple majority in the House.
We don’t need to get rid of MMP – we need to have a wider range of representation of smaller parties in Parliament by reducing the 5% threshold, changing the mix of electorate and list seats, and basing the formula of the Maori seats on the entire electorate, not just the South Island. We also need to change the rules surrounding list MPs: Current MPs who stand as candidates should not get back in on the list should they be unsuccessful. They should be dropped from the list until the next general election so they don’t get in on by-elections and resignations, either.
National prefers the Supplementary Member (SM) system, where constituent MPs are elected and the balance of the MPs – the list – is supplementary and proportional. If a party does not get any constituent MPs, its representation is likely to reduce compared to MMP, but increase compared to FPP. One advantage of SM is that those who are not on the Maori roll and want to list vote the Maori Party, or on either roll and vote for a small minor party, are less likely to have their vote wasted. Yet under a lower MMP threshold the Maori Party will most likely get the same number of seats as SM.
Dropping the MMP threshold and allocating list seats proportionately under a lower threshold is more proportionate than SM as it assists lower parties. With a 3% - or 0.8% - MMP threshold, or one electorate seat, NZ First would be in Parliament. The Maori Party would gain a list seat.
However, under SM, NZ First would be out (National would get most of the seats), Act and the Maori Party will have the same as a 3% MMP threshold. That’s because a SM list seat only kicks in if the party get enough of the party vote. The Greens would have three seats instead of eight.
But if the threshold was dropped to that 0.8% or one electorate seat, things only really change if a party gets between 0.8% and 3%. That’s why dropping the MMP threshold and allocating list seats proportionately under a lower threshold is a more proportionate system than SM itself.
So, rather than changing from MMP, the debate should be how low the threshold should be dropped. A party that gets 2.9% and no seats is out under SM, out under a 3% MMP threshold, but in – with two seats - under a 0.8% MMP threshold.
But even with 0.8% we should still keep the Maori seats. Not to do so would mean there would be no constituency Maori MPs in Parliament dedicated to Maori interests.
Rather than asking if we should get rid of MMP, we should be asking questions about how an electoral system can be more proportional – and therefore enhance democracy - without letting in wacko parties who may get 0.2% of the vote and no elected seats.
But nobody in the Beehive appears to want to do that.
Labels: electoral reform