Today’s Dominion Post editorial looks at proposed changes to the electoral system. It concludes:
However, the shape of the electoral system should not be determined by politicians’ interests, but by what is in the interests of the public. That is a fair system that facilitates public trust.
A better safeguard for smaller parties is the other of the commission’s major recommendations – that the party vote threshold be reduced from 5 per cent to 4 per cent. It is not an insurmountable hurdle. Rather than trying to tilt the system in their favour, ACT and UnitedFuture should try to convince more people to vote for them.
They are right, the shape of the electoral system should not be determined by politicians’ interests.
They are right, it should be determined by what is in the interests of the public.
But they are wrong claiming a better safeguard for smaller parties is that the party vote threshold be reduced from 5 per cent to 4 per cent.
A party threshold of 4%, especially if the electorate seat waiver is abolished, is not a fair system for members of the public who may like to vote for small parties. Despite the Dominion’s claim it will be an insurmountable hurdle for some small parties.
This will mean that the vote of people who support parties that get less than 4% may count for nothing.
This will mean that some people who think their preferred party won’t make the 4% threshold will instead vote for a different party to try and make their vote count.
We will end up with a less proportional parliament.
We would make it harder for any new party to succeed.
The Dominion Post and the Electoral Commission are favouring large and medium sized parties, and discounting the preference of some people for small parties, and limiting the possibility of new parties starting.
168,975 people voted for nine parties that got less than 4% in the 2011 election, 8% of the total vote. It is likely that would have been more if people thought their small party vote could make a difference and didn’t instead vote for a larger party.
That’s a lot of voters who aren’t important to the Electoral Commission or the Dominion Post.
There are claims that small parties reduce Government stability. There is no evidence of this. Multiple small parties can enhance stability as they give the major Government party (and large opposition parties) more options to get a majority.
The original recommendation for MMP was a 4% threshold plus the electorate seat waiver. The threshold was instead put up to 5% (by large parties).
Since then there has been no evidence of instability caused by sub 5% parties. Small parties have contributed responsibly.
If a change is made to 4% threshold and no electorate seat waiver we will make our MMP less representative and less proportional than the original very cautious recommendations.
That is bad democracy that favours larger parties.
If MPs supported having the most representative democratic system they would override the conservativism of the Electoral Commission and reduce the threshold further, or remove it altogether.
They would move MMP forwards, not take it backwards.
And they would leave it to voters decide on what mix of large, medium and small parties they want. That’s how it should be.