By Trevor Ammundsen.
There Has to be a Better System
I was one of the small majority of voters that in 1993 voted to change our Parliamentary voting system to MMP, Mixed Member Proportional, the system we have used since that time. For younger readers MMP was to replace the previous FPP, First Past the Post, system whereby the winner ruled without restraint. The prime reason I voted for MMP was to have some restraints imposed on the Government of the day, no matter who that proved to be.
While many people would like to see MMP done away with I personally feel that it is a better system but needs serious refinement. As evidence of my assertation that it is a better system you just have to look at the rabble that was voted into power in 2020; gaining a FPP style victory that allowed them to govern without restraint. What resulted was definitely the worst Government we have had in the MMP era.
I believe our politicians do not have the wit or imagination to properly manage the MMP system and are the prime reason for the systems virtual failure. This can be seen with the coming election where once again the two sides form their teams, announce they will never play with the other side. In effect they are acting like amoebae, joining together to make “their” FPP team so once again we have no real choice, the small parties only having minor influence. Historically the politicians’ negative effects on MMP were seen with the increasing the number of politicians from 90 to 120, against the recommendation of the Commission at the time. It was also seen with the decision to keep the Maori seats which the Commission recommended be eliminated as Maori, with approximately 20% of the population, should find strong representation quite easy to obtain; and subsequent elections have proven this to be true.
MMP needs to be changed so that it works properly for the people and gives all parties an opportunity to represent their policies in our Parliament. This could be done quite simply, although the cynic in me suggests the phrase “turkeys don’t vote for an early Christmas” could come into play. What should be done?
Firstly, get rid of the vote of no confidence rule which forces the cobbling together of coalitions to govern. This constant holding of the executioner’s axe over the government of the day forces some odd coalitions whose purpose is only to ensure the government formed can be safe from this threat. Support this change with a law that the party with the largest portion of the vote must form the Government. This creates situations such as in 2017; National would form a government with 46% of the vote, no ability for Winston to cobble up a coalition of losers. National would then need to negotiate with the other parties, all four of them, to get its program underway. To get its way it would need to back a few policies of the smaller parties. This would impose restraint and enable smaller parties to have some small wins for their voters. If the Government grinds to a halt, due to their inability to get on with anybody, a new election would be called.
A problem with MMP that was not foreseen is that it becomes far easier for idiots to get into Parliament. All they need is a compliant party that will give them a good list position. This leads to budding politicians greasing up to their political leaders to gain such a position resulting in people that have very limited experience with the travails of life getting a winnable list position. We will always need list seats in an MMP system, but I propose that MPs cannot be appointed to cabinet positions unless they currently or previously held an electorate seat. The rationale for this suggestion is that gaining an electorate seat demands that you work with an electorate, convince normal people that you have what it takes to represent them properly. With a change such as this we would have our best politicians running the show and the riff-raff just being there to make noise and to give their vote.
The third thing that should happen is to get rid of the silly 5% rule whereby if you don’t get 5% of the vote or an electorate seat you do not get into Parliament. This rule seems to be there to protect the incumbent parties and doesn’t really have any logic. If you get enough support to have a seat, why should you not have one? At the moment the ridiculous situation can occur whereby you have enough votes for four seats but get none because you are below 5%; yet with a couple of thousand additional votes and you suddenly have five. This change would not result in a whole lot of smaller parties cluttering up the place. In the 2017 election only The Opportunities Party would have made it if this rule was applied. More variety, better representation.
It would be great to see a governance system that was better for us all but as stated earlier, it is hard to see the turkeys being supportive. Maybe you should bring it up with your local MP.