Meddling with MMP

The net result of the Electoral Commission’s proposals for MMP may be fewer small Parties in Parliament.

The trouble with reviews of substantial matters like the foundation of government, is that they depend on your mood at the time of each review.

To stop people being driven by pesky emotions of the moment, such as dislike of politicians, the terms of this latest review were limited to only one real matter of substance: the thresholds for the allocation of list seats. The other matters were mundane administrative stuff, such as list members contesting by-elections, candidates both contesting an electorate and being on a party list, and the rules for ordering candidates on party lists. Even the issue of “overhang” is not all that troublesome (when a party wins more electorate seats than its party vote share entitles it to).

There was no real case for the 5% threshold when it was first introduced with MMP. It was felt that allowing as little as one seat in Parliament might create many small factions, destabilising Government. 

The Commission feels that we can let the reigns off slightly and allow Parties in Parliament as long as they get at least 4% of the vote.

The irony is that small Parties got into Parliament under MMP because although they captured less than 5% of the vote, they secured an electorate seat. Under the “coat-tailing” rule, an electorate seat means Parties are exempt from the threshold and get as many MPs as their proportion entitles them to.

The trouble is, most of those small Parties captured less than the proposed new threshold of 4%.

The net result of the proposal is therefore fewer small Parties in Parliament.

MMP was introduced because it was thought to be a fairer representation of the voters. More small Parties were possible, and even intended. 

I would argue that if we’re dropping the weird coat-tail rule, we should lower the Party vote threshold to at least three, and even a “one MP” level. What exactly is wrong with MPs in Parliament that represent specific interests of voters?

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