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Waka Jumping Bill Introduced

The “waka jumping” bill has been introduced into Parliament.

The Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill in the name of Justice Minister Andrew Little was part of the coalition deal between Labour and NZ First.

The Bill says an MP’s seat will become vacant when they cease to be a parliamentary member of a political party for which he or she was elected.

This is triggered by a party leader telling the Speaker a member of their party has acted in “a way that has distorted, and is likely to continue to distort, the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined at the last general election”.

The Party Leader would have to tell the Speaker in a statement that two-thirds of the parliamentary members of their party agree the notice should be given. The statement must also confirm that all other requirements imposed by the rules of the political party for which the member was elected have been complied with.

The issue has been a long running one for NZ First.

In 1998, the National/NZ First Government faced collapse when NZ First said it was leaving the coalition. However, a number of MPs left the party and supported the National-led government to keep it in power.

In 2001, the then Labour-led Government introduced the predecessor of the Bill introduced today.

The only time the law was used was when ACT MP, Donna Awatere Huata was ejected from the party (of left according to different views at the time) and the law was triggered to expel her from Parliament. The case was the first heard by the new Supreme Court in 2004/

Critics of the law say it gives Party leaders too much power over elected MPs and was a legalistic way of enforcing caucus discipline. Supporters say preserving the proportionality of Parliament from the actions of a “waka hopper” is more important.

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