- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

MMP review

The Electoral Commission has issued their report on the MMP review. They offer fairly conservative tweaks to the system rather than anything radical, but just enough changes to have the smaller parties on their hind legs yelping for their survival. With the parties well entrenched in their relative positions (on how they can best game MMP) the commission's findings may end up being adopted as a middle course.
NZ Herald:
The Government's response to a review of MMP is due today.
The Electoral Commission delivered a report to Justice Minister Judith Collins last week, and her response will go before Cabinet and the Government will release it this afternoon.
Prime Minister John Key told Radio Live today a bill would have to go through Parliament for changes to be agreed.
"The question is will there be changes? If so; what, and will there be Parliamentary support for it?"
Mr Key said if there is no Parliamentary support for the recommendations, it wouldn't progress.

Leaving it as it is may be an option for the Nats because they've done well out of the Epsom scenario for the last three elections, but some changes seem inevitable. The process of a bill will mean select committee hearings and other opportunities to tinker. I see Labour is planning their own bill (via Twitter):
Katie Bradford-Crozi@katieabradford
Labour will introduce a member's bill implementing all the recommended MMP changes. Shearer doesn't have confidence Govt will do it.
UPDATE 1:40pm:
NZ Labour Party press release via Scoop:
The Labour Party has begun drafting legislation to amend MMP, abolishing the so-called‘coat-tails clause’ and reducing the party vote threshold to 4%.[...]“People are sick of deals being stitched up over cups of tea. That moment between John Key and John Banks in Epsom hurt Kiwis’ confidence in MMP and its time to restore that trust.“New Zealanders voted to retain MMP and have it reviewed. The Electoral Commission consulted widely on these changes. It’s important that the Government keeps faith with the people and follows through on the democratic choices they have made.
“Labour’s bill will deal with the most important recommendations made by the Commission. It will abolish the one electorate seat threshold for the allocation of list seats and lower the party vote threshold from 5% to 4%. It will also require the Electoral Commission to conduct a review after three general elections. “This should not be a party-political issue. I will be writing to the Prime Minister offering to work with the Government to see these changes put in place. -----

The recommendations of the commission (and my comments in brackets). 

* The one electorate seat threshold for the allocation of list seats should be abolished.
(Torn on this. Is the "coat-tail" an exception to the rule, or is it the rule? Abolition would mean less tactical voting in two or three electorates, but would also probably mean tens of thousands of wasted votes from the sub-threshold parties. If I had to choose I would say reducing the wasted votes is more important - so, biting my lip - the coat-tail rule should be kept.)

* The party vote threshold should be lowered from 5% to 4%.
(Still not low enough. Lowering only by one percent will not off-set the wasted votes if the abolition of the coat-tailing also occurs. Unfortunately there will be little public concern over the threshold and it will remain quite high as people see a proliferation of small parties and the potential for ever-fracturing parties as real threats to the stability of the parliamentary system. I don't think NZ will degenerate into the fractional schisms and plethora of micro-parties that Israel (which has a minute threshold) has, but the big parties and the many people who back them do, and for that reason I can't see the threshold dropping below 4% and certainly not below 3%.  Cracking 3% is difficult enough - even millionaire politicians like Colin Craig and his Conservative party vehicle couldn't make it. For parties like the Conservatives and Mana they will struggle to reach 3% let alone the mooted 4% - for parties like United Future, impossible.)

* There should be a statutory requirement for the Electoral Commission to review the operation of the 4% party vote threshold and report to the Minister of Justice for presentation to Parliament after three general elections.
(They are acknowledging how fraught the disputes over such an arbitrary threshold represent, but reporting to Ministers seems a waste of time on this issue. Why not offer the same relitigation exercise to other elements of the proposal?)

*If the one electorate seat threshold is abolished, the provision for overhang seats should be abolished.
(The overhang is there to keep proportionality when a party wins more electorates than they would have been entitled to by their party vote, and so it makes sense, but it is resented as a back door way to increase the size of a parliament that people still can't get over going from 99 to 120 in the first place. If abolishing the coat-tailing means you can abolish the overhangs then fine, but if they don't then perhaps a cap of five (so max 125 chamber) to give an impression that this anamoly has been dealt with.)

*Consideration should be given to fixing the ratio of electorate seats to list seats at 60:40 to help maintain the diversity of representation and proportionality in Parliament obtained through the list seats.
(Diversity is definitely something to aim for - and along with accurate representation - is the purpose of MMP. However I'm not a big fan of the list MP and there remains something of an irksome spectacle of parties (like the Greens and NZ First) concentrating on the list and abandoning the electorates to the usual series of uncompetitive races in the electorates (esp. the rural ones). NZ had 80 seats for almost a century until the 1960s and then it grew to 99 seats at the time of the last FPP election in 1993. So - combined with population growth - we have far bigger electorates than we had. I would prefer more electorates to get the population ratio and geographic size to a more manageable level,  but this chaffs against both diversity and avoidance of an overhang. Torn once again.)

* Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the selection and ranking of candidates on their party lists.
(As opposed to the voter being able to order/rank lists. Agree - tutuing with this, esp. with big lists, is silly.)

* Political parties should be required to give a public assurance by statutory declaration that they have complied with their rules in selecting and ranking their list candidates.
(Not sure how this would help or even whether there has ever been a problem that need this remedy.)

* In any dispute relating to the selection of candidates for election as members of Parliament, the version of the party’s rules that should be applied is that supplied to the Commission under section 71B as at the time the dispute arose.
(Fair enough.)

* Candidates should continue to be able to stand both for an electorate seat and be on a party list at a general election.
(This is sound. I don't think a candidate should be required to stand in an electorate if they are on the list and vice versa. It still seems a bit like cheating though for list candidates not to run in a constituency, but as long as you have lists you will get this.)

* List MPs should continue to be able to contest by-elections.
(I went through the Mt Albert by-election and the Greens, Act and National all put up list members as candidates - this was bizarre more than anything else. It skews the race as the calculation of the voter is dependent on factoring in the permutations of people coming in off the list. I can understand a list MP with strong connections to an electorate wanting to contest, but a free for all with list MPs as candidates is a bad look. Torn on this one. Maybe the list MP would have to be enrolled in that electorate to stand?)


Post a Comment

<< Home