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MMP: Is it time for a change?
On November 26 a
referendum on New
Zealand's voting system is
being held. Jim Chipp looks
at why New Zealand uses
MMP, whether it's time for a
change and the options.
What is MMP?
It stands for Mix Member Proportional
and is the voting system New Zealand
uses to elect its parliamentarians. There
are 120 Members of Parliament -- 70 elec-
torate MPs, including the Maori seats,
and 50 party list MPs.
Why do we use MMP?
Before 1996, New Zealand's Parliament
was elected using the First Past the Post
Each voter had one vote for an elector-
ate MP. The candidate who gained the
most votes won. There were no list MPs.
The party that won the most electorate
seats won the right to govern.
However, some people regarded the
system as unfair, because parties with
the highest percentage of votes did not
always win enough electorates to govern.
Smaller parties faired poorly, because
even though they might have gained five
or 10 per cent of the votes that did not
translate to electorates.
Otago University politics lecturer
Bryce Edwards said New Zealand's for-
mer electoral system was breaking down.
First Past the Post couldn't really cope
with more than a two-party system.''
The fourth Labour Government
implemented policies that were against
the interests of its traditional supporters,
such as unions, and then Jim Bolger's
National Government broke election
promises, alienating superannuitants
and even farmers, he said.
Has MMP worked better than
First Past the Post?
Mr Edwards said it had. The party with
the single largest party vote has always
got into government [under MMP].''
However, that government had not
always been the one voters might have
expected, he said.
In the first MMP election, Winston
Peters campaigned against National, but
then led his New Zealand First party into
a coalition with them.
There was a lot of dissatisfaction with
that,'' Mr Edwards said.
In 2008, Act got into Parliament with
only 3.5 per cent of the vote, because Rod-
ney Hide won the Epsom electorate. New
Zealand First, with 4 per cent, did not get
in because it failed to win a seat.
Are they any other issues with
There had been dissatisfaction with
candidates losing electorate seats, but
getting into Parliament on the party list,
Mr Edwards said.
Also, there had been frustration over
parties doing deals, such as Green candi-
date Gareth Hughes standing in Ohariu,
but asking for just the party vote, thereby
encouraging electorate votes to go to
Labour's Charles Chauvel.
No disrespect to Gareth Hughes,
because he is just doing what everyone
else does, but he is effectively standing as
a non-candidate, standing and saying
don't vote for me','' said Mr Edwards.
Can MMP be tweaked?
Mr Edwards said the 5 per cent threshold
to gain seats could be altered or
abolished. The Royal Commission has
advocated for a 4 per cent threshold.
However, Mr Edwards said there was no
need for any threshhold.
An alternative would be to have an
electorate MP threshhold of two MPs
elected, before being able to bring in
more, he said.
Alternatives to MPP
If more than half the voters elect to
change the voting system there will be
referendum in 2014. Four alternatives
are to be offered -- First Past the Post,
Preferential Voting, Single Transferable
Vote and Supplementary Member. All
scenarios are for a 120-member Parlia-
First Past the Post: Each voter chooses
an electorate MP. The candidate who gets
the most votes wins. The party with the
most electorate seats wins the right to
Preferential Voting: Voters rank their
choice of electorate candidates. If a candi-
date gets more than 50 per cent of the
first-preference votes he or she is elected.
If not, the least popular candidate is
eliminated and those votes transfer to the
next preference on the ballot paper. The
process is repeated until a candidate
reaches more that 50 per cent of the vote.
Single Transferable Vote: Each elector-
ate has more than one MP. It is likely the
120 MPs would be divided among 24 to 30
Everybody votes by ranking electorate
candidates. First preferences are
counted. If any candidate reaches a
predetermined quota, he or she is elected.
After each count, the lowest polling can-
didate is eliminated. Their votes transfer
to the voters' next preference, along with
surplus votes from candidates already
elected. The process ends when all seats
Supplementary Member: Everybody gets two
votes -- an electorate vote and a party vote. The
share of the 30 supplementary (or list) seats for
each party reflects its share of the party vote.
If a party gets 30 per cent of the party vote, it
will get nine list MPs, no matter how many elec-
torate seats it wins. This differs from MMP, in
which a party's share of all 120 seats mirrors its
share of the party vote.
For information on the representation poll, visit
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