Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


It’s time for another referendum on MMP

Time for MMP referendum

By Peter Dunne
Leader, UnitedFuture
Thursday, 13 March 2008

It’s time for another referendum on MMP.

Even though there was no provision for another referendum following the change to the electoral system in 1996, most people still think there was, and are aggrieved it has never happened.

When MMP was reviewed in 2001 I was one of the minority of MPs on the review committee who voted for another referendum. As the system was established by the people by referendum in 1993, its confirmation or otherwise should similarly be determined by the people in another referendum, and not by the politicians.

Recent events have thrust the issue into prominence once again.

We have seen MPs defeated in their electorates returning to Parliament via the party list. There has been the list MP, elected solely on the basis of his party crossing the threshold by virtue of winning an electorate seat, claiming to remain in Parliament after deserting his party.

Then there was Richard Long’s column (10 March) arguing that Labour stood to gain most from any abolition of the Maori seats. This followed on from National’s apparent unwillingness to confirm its 2005 policy of abolishing those seats by 2014 and the extraordinary threats to civil order from the Maori Party should any government even consider doing so.

Yet the question of the future of the Maori seats has been on the table ever since the Royal Commission on the electoral system recommended their abolition way back in 1986. Instead, we have almost doubled the number since then.

Issues like these are examples of MMP working out in practice to be a little different from what was intended. But there is another issue looming that has the potential to be the greatest manipulation of MMP yet.

The premise behind MMP is that parties get representation in Parliament in proportion to the party votes they receive – 10% of the party vote means 10% of the seats in Parliament. If a party wins more electorate seats than its party vote entitles it to, then it keeps those electorate seats, creating what is called the “overhang.” (At the last election the Maori Party won four electorate seats, but its party vote was equivalent to three seats, so the size of Parliament increased by one.)

If all the current polls are right, at this year’s election, the Maori Party could win all seven Maori seats, but its party vote is running at about the level of three seats, thus Parliament’s overhang might increase to four.

In that event, the number of seats required to form a government would jump from 61 at present to 63, thus manipulating the election outcome. To take the current polls at their word, National could end up as the largest party, with possibly more than 50% of the party vote.

With support partners it may well be able to cross the 61 seat barrier, but could fall short of crossing the higher barrier 63 seat the substantial overhang causes, because it cannot come to a deal with the Maori Party.

Therefore it is unable to govern.

That bizarre outcome would be both contrary to the expressed will of the public and completely undemocratic.

I do not criticise Maori for their astuteness in adapting well to MMP but I do question whether those who voted for MMP really expected the Maori seats to end up being used this way, as a potential permanent veto on who governs, regardless of the public will.

Surely, it is another reason for a fresh referendum on MMP, including the future of the Maori seats? Such a referendum could occur as early as 2010, with its results implemented for the 2014 General Election.

It’s time.

Words: 610


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On DHB Deficits And Free Trade

Currently the world is looking on aghast at the Trump administration’s plans to slash Obamacare, mainly in order to finance massive tax changes that will deliver most of their gains to the wealthy. Lives will be lost in the trade-off. Millions of Americans stand to lose access to the healthcare they need.

Spot the difference with New Zealand, where DHBs are under intense pressure to reduce deficits within a climate of chronic underfunding. More>>


Greens' Response: Slum-Like Rentals Exposed In Renting Review

“...The grim findings of the review are a wakeup call about the true state of rentals in this country. Too many renters are festering in slum-like conditions under the thumb of landlords who have largely unchecked powers and ignore tenants’ complaints when it suits them.” More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Life And Times Of Peter Dunne

The unkind might talk of sinking ships, others could be more reminded of a loaded revolver left on the desk by his Cabinet colleagues as they closed the door behind them, now that the polls in Ohariu had confirmed he was no longer of much use to National. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Labour’s Campaign Launch

One of the key motifs of Ardern’s speech was her repeated use of the phrase – “Now, what?” Cleverly, that looks like being Labour’s response to National’s ‘steady as it goes’ warning against not putting the economic ‘gains’ at risk. More>>


Lyndon Hood: Social Welfare, Explained

Speaking as someone who has seen better times and nowadays mostly operates by being really annoying and humiliating to deal with, I have some fellow feeling with the current system, so I’ll take this chance to set a few things straight.. More>>


Deregistered: Independent Board Decision On Family First

The Board considers that Family First has a purpose to promote its own particular views about marriage and the traditional family that cannot be determined to be for the public benefit in a way previously accepted as charitable... More>>


Transport Policies: Nats' New $10.5bn Roads Of National Significance

National is committing to the next generation of Roads of National Significance, National Party Transport Spokesperson Simon Bridges says. More>>





Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election