MMP under threat?

There has been some inevitable complaining about MMP after the outcome of the election and the eventual formation of Government – generally by people who didn’t like the result.

Is MMP broken? Or is it working as intended, albeit with the first time we have the highest polling party by a clear margin in Opposition?

Brent Edwards – Insight: MMP – Democracy or Power?

For the first time under MMP the highest polling party is not leading the government. Despite winning 44.4 percent of the party vote, easily ahead of Labour’s 37 percent, National could not win the support of New Zealand First to form a government.

We have a majority three party Government, with a large minority party in Opposition.

There is no convention for the largest party to form the Government. The only requirement is for a party or group of parties to convince the Governor General they can form a viable Government.

“That is actually the essence of democracy. The majority rules. That is the rule and that is what happened here,” Sir Geoffrey Palmer said.

As it should be.

Meanwhile, Peter Dunne thinks the process has shaken people’s confidence in MMP. But polling by UMR Insight, which does political polls for the Labour Party, does not support that.

It polled 750 people after the coalition agreement was announced.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent, found 50 percent of respondents were in favour of retaining MMP, while 38 percent wanted to change the electoral system.

Back in October 2011, the last time UMR polled on what people thought of MMP, only 43 percent wanted to retain it while 37 percent wanted change.

So increasing support for MMP. That may or may not continue after this term, depending on how it manages to perform.

Jacinda Ardern said she wanted to run government differently so it reflected more accurately the reality of MMP. That included ensuring ministerial positions better reflected the interests of all parties involved in the government. In New Zealand First’s case it got regional development and the Greens climate change, both areas where those parties had campaigned strongly.

As well, in a change from previous arrangements, New Zealand First ministers sit alongside their Labour colleagues on Parliament’s frontbench. Their backbench MPs sit behind them in seating which, until now, has been the sole preserve of ministers from the largest party in government.

An interesting change. It allows the Prime Minister and Deputy to sit side by side.

The Prime Minister has only ever voted in MMP elections. For her MMP politics appear to be more instinctive than for those politicians who experienced the old first-past-the-post electoral system.

While it is unlikely any rule will be introduced directing how parties should negotiate after elections, the government does appear to be foreshadowing more change at Parliament. If select committees are given more power and if Ms Ardern is serious about consultation then the National Party might have more influence than any opposition has had in the past.

But just how far will Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens go? It is easy to talk about sharing power, much more difficult to do it. This three-party administration, which is working hard to finish off the year’s business, is under pressure to demonstrate it is not only a truly MMP government but an effective one.

The National Party, no matter what concessions are made to it as the Opposition, has little incentive to make the government’s job any easier.

I disagree with that. Opposition parties have a duty to aid the Government of the day, and they do this through Parliament’s committees. They can do this in other ways, by providing a majority vote for legislation that doesn’t have the support of all the parties in Government.

I think that a largely constructive Opposition that worked positively for the good of Government and the country, albeit holding the Government to account when appropriate, would be reward at the next election if they sold themselves as an improvement.

 

 

65 Comments

  1. robertguyton

     /  December 11, 2017

    “a largely constructive Opposition that worked positively for the good of Government and the country,”
    Sadly, we’ve ended up with the opposite. How immature they are!

    • alloytoo

       /  December 11, 2017

      hmmmm didn’t the opposition support the appointment of the speaker and vote in favour of the parental leave legislation hardly at all like the previous opposition which ended up campaigning against it’s own policy.

      • robertguyton

         /  December 11, 2017

        hmmmmmmm didn’t the opposition behave childishly around both of the examples you provided? Point (accidently) made, alloytoo

        • High Flying Duck

           /  December 11, 2017

          Since when is suggesting improvements “acting childishly”.
          Do you not think the party who completely agreed with the National amendment to PPL but blocked it anyway because…National may have been the childish ones?

  2. robertguyton

     /  December 11, 2017

    ” Opposition parties have a duty to aid the Government of the day…”
    Could you get in touch with Bill, Pete, and remind him of this?

  3. Gezza

     /  December 11, 2017

    I’m just going to repeat my reply to Bev elsewhere this morning.

    Gezza / December 11, 2017
    Nope I can’t see MMP ever getting the boot. For a start there’d have to be a referendum agreed to by all parties. None of them would go alng with that idea. And I don’t think the voting public would agree to it either. It’s possible, I imagine, there might one day be one on a change to the system of proportional representation, but I think, at the moment, even that is unlikely. No change is needed.

    MMP worked out ok for National for 9 years. If things get as bad as you think in 3 years they’ll be back in if they can get a coalition partner or two. Maybe even without one. Who knows. Best at the moment just to keep watch, stay calm, & carry on. It’s a bit early to be predicting disaster, especially if it’s fixable next time round. If you prefer the idea of living in a one party state there’s always China or Vietnam.

  4. High Flying Duck

     /  December 11, 2017

    Opposition parties work with the government of the day behind the scenes, but in the public arena their role is to be that of Devil’s advocate.

    Good policy and legislation requires every aspect to be able to withstand second guessing & challenge. This is why a strong opposition with credible alternative policies is so important to a functioning government.

    There is a fine line between holding to account and obstructing – and that is the line on which the public will judge whether National are ready to regain the Government benches (should the current Government fail to fire).

    • Gezza

       /  December 11, 2017

      It’s very evident in Question Time so far that National is just being disruptive. Hopefully they’ll tire of that soon, with Trev’s encouragement thru slaps on tne hand with supplementaries penalties. It seems unlikely they’ll get anything really meaty to get their teeth into until Budget Day.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  December 11, 2017

        Not sure where you get that idea from – there is nothing to obstruct at the moment because Labour have been so rubbish. They are completely unprepared and are filibustering their own legislation.
        It isn’t National who had speakers standing to debate the meaning of “is”.
        National are just trying to get some lines in the sand on which they can pin Labour down the track.
        But as far as delaying legislation – it is the party introducing it which is holding things up.

        • Blazer

           /  December 11, 2017

          to paraphrase JT…National are a…dead duck…spitting out pieces of their….bad…luck’.

        • Gezza

           /  December 11, 2017

          MiniBudget Thursday according to 1ewes. Winter Power Subsidy, $60 pw Baby Bonus etc. Should be good for a bit of a stoush?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  December 11, 2017

        For sure they will continue to be disruptive vs destructive as opportunities present. Why on earth would you expect otherwise given soapbox time? Winston will be on the receiving end for a change.

        • robertguyton

           /  December 11, 2017

          Alan says:
          “For sure they will continue to be disruptive vs destructive as opportunities present. Why on earth would you expect otherwise”
          Pete says:
          “I think that a largely constructive Opposition that worked positively for the good of Government and the country, albeit holding the Government to account when appropriate, would be reward at the next election if they sold themselves as an improvement.”
          I say:That’s why.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  December 11, 2017

            Two different things: question time and outside it. However, Pete’s comment is anyway an extreme triumph of hope over experience. Governments lose elections, oppositions don’t win them. And destroying confidence in the Government is the only route to the Government loss.

            • robertguyton

               /  December 11, 2017

              The last one was won by the then-Opposition – installing Jacinda Ardern and igniting the Jacindamania fire cracker won them the Government benches. National threw everything at it, but lost.

            • PartisanZ

               /  December 11, 2017

              And this “destroying confidence in the Government” is the pinnacle of human social organisation?

              Excuse me while I vomit.

              Our only real prospect of survival now as a species may be the triumph of hope over (so-called) ‘experience’.

              Who creates the experience again …?

              Clinging to the rapidly deflating life-raft of Westminster means Aotearoa New Zealand is becoming a political backwater.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  December 11, 2017

              @Robert, no, National lost it by not organising sufficient partners. Jacinda just rearranged the opposition votes.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  December 11, 2017

              Someone also made the pertinent observation yesterday that Key’s strategy of ruling out a partnership with Winston probably stopped the crucial few percent sliding over to NZF in the expectation of a NZF-Nat coalition. English is not so smart at strategy.

            • Blazer

               /  December 11, 2017

              @Al….the Zoologist was in charge of…strategy.

    • PartisanZ

       /  December 11, 2017

      Useful ‘Devil’s Advocates’ are fine and hard to find. I agree with Gezza though, National are mostly playing ‘Drivel’s Advocate’ at the moment.

      At some point, Disruptive = Destructive.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  December 11, 2017

        See above – the only people disrupting government legislation at the moment are the government.

        • Gezza

           /  December 11, 2017

          Early days.

          National are just wasting Question Time time with pointless Points of Order because they haven’t been given anything detailed & worthwhile enuf to get their teeth into & meaningfully attack yet. Nobody outside Parliament but us & disgruntled National voters is really paying much attention at all to what either The Oppos or the Govt is up to yet.

          Not before Christmas. Who cares? Everything goes on ice at Xmas. And even after Xmas, National can only bash their gums & jump up & down in frustration having no real show of hitting any worthwhile target – unless Labour front up with some detailed policies & costings before Budget Day.

          They might have got caught unprepared a time or two, but they’re newbies – they’ll learn quickly. They’ve got National’s former army of dedicated government servants at their beck & call, & they’re required to provide advice to assist the Government, not the Opposition.

  5. robertguyton

     /  December 11, 2017

    The “dump MMP” caterwauling from National’s sycophants during the coalition negotiations and since their conclusion has been an embarrassment and revealed how dyed in the wool, the dye being blue, much of New Zealand is. The old nag, “First Past the Post” died years ago but many on the Right believe that if they keep flogging the old nag, she’ll come back to life. You didn’t win, Bill, you came second and it wasn’t even a photo-finish.

  6. NOEL

     /  December 11, 2017

    Peter Dunne should bow out now and get a few directorships to keep his mind active like every other loosing pollie.
    His comment are more in line with “keep a media profile regardless of the usefulness of the comment.”
    Never voted for MMP but satisfied its doing what voters wanted.

  7. Gerrit

     /  December 11, 2017

    I think by default we will end of by a virtual FFP system under the MMP umbrella.

    You will have Labour/Greens on one side and National on the other.

    With NZ First “on the brink” off not being in parliament it will be a FFP system if they (NZ First) fall of the rails.

    It is all going to depend uopon NZ First performance under Winston Peters and potential performance under a new leader when Winston Peters can no longer run the ship or looses electoral appeal.

    What electoral position will NZ First take post Winston Peters?

    If we look at the “work for the dole” scheme, the new NZFirst direction is opposed to the policyl direction of Labour/Greens.

    The other fly in the MMP ointment are the Greens being wedded to Labour, they will hold very little sway in parliament (as we can see currently) and could actually, like NZFirst, depart the parliament if voters don’t see enough difference in voting for the Greens or Labour.

    Entry for new parties as, seen by the Conservatives in 2014 and TOP in 2017, is pretty doubtingly impossible.

    • PartisanZ

       /  December 11, 2017

      Currently, MMP elections translate into a Government vs Opposition FPP Parliament. 61 vote majority rules.

      Solution: Change the Parliamentary system …

  8. Auto_Immune

     /  December 11, 2017

    Voter behaviour, and therefore election results, may have been different if Parliament had implemented the results of the MMP review.

    I believe the 4% threshold it suggested would have had a pretty significant impact.

  9. PartisanZ

     /  December 11, 2017

    We should have a 120 seat coalition government: Be voting for the best individual candidates to fill the seats [and perhaps ‘portfolios’ too?], with less Party affiliations included. It could be led by those who can form a leadership majority, after which the remainder are invited to join the coalition process.

    Hell, presently the different factions – aka Parties or ‘tribes’ – are basically doing the same things anyhow, sometimes by slightly different means. They toy with the frayed edges of a system that’s dysfunctional to the core. This from the Herald this morning entitled ‘PM seeks cross-party support for child poverty targets’

    “The families package, which is part of the Government’s 100-day plan, will include the Winter Fuel Payment, Best Start and a boost to Working for Families [is expected to lift 50,000 children out of poverty]. It will replace the planned tax cuts of the previous Government, which was going to lift 50,000 children out of poverty”.

    How fucked is this? I mean seriously, how fucked?

    Cross-party support is good. It should be the rule, not the exception. ‘Opposition’ is intrinsic in the to-and-fro of passion-rational debate FFS. Labour, NZFirst and the Greens are debating things behind the scenes, which involves ‘opposing’ one another until a solution is found. National could do the same … join the game …

    Imagine the effect our Marae Ture/Legislative Assembly ‘modelling’ cooperative, collaborative, consensus decision-making would have on the ‘psyche-social soup’?

    The individual human beings within our society are getting psychologically healthier all the time. They will eventually demand that the currently fucked-up political system emulate their humanity, their understandings, personal integrity and communication, and their aspirations for future generations …

    • High Flying Duck

       /  December 11, 2017

      There is a reason England is an economic and global heavyweight despite it’s size. Its nature of governance and rule of law are what has given it (and by proxy the commonwealth) a huge advantage.
      Consensus politics is a great theory but leads to corruption when there is no-one left to to challenge the decisions made.
      Opposition is what refines policies to withstand strong scrutiny and is what holds Governments to account for the decisions they make.
      It is a strong opposition that acts as the check and balance in the system.
      This is why over the last 6 years (BJ*) even many National supporters expressed concern that Labour were in such disarray they were not able to perform this essential role.
      Mess with that at your peril.
      *BJ = Before Jacinda

      • PartisanZ

         /  December 11, 2017

        HFD – Nowadays, your first assertion borders on preposterous. Firstly “despite its size” could easily be rephrased “because of its population size” Britain WAS an economic & global heavyweight? Past tense. Now She’s 25, 21 & 27 respectively on Wiki’s 3 lists of per capita GDP …

        Second, the nature of governance and rule of law are only part of Britannia’s so-called “huge advantage”. Much of it was gained by military and coercive force over, or duplicitous treating with the indigenous peoples of [former] colonies who now constitute the Commonwealth. The common wealth is, in reality, largely a fantasy for many people in the Commonwealth.

        The ‘governance’ & legal systems which facilitated colonization are nothing to be particularly proud of. E.g. Right of Discovery … “It’s really new to me, but it’s mine, because I only just discovered it” … How fucked is that? Westminster barely deserves the name ‘governance’. It’s imposed government based on Monarchist Feudalism …

        I explained that I wasn’t in any way ruling out rigorous debate (which involves opposing opinions aka opposition) within a process of [more] consensus decision-making. Misinterpret that as you see fit.

        The Party system aka ‘herd instinct’ is a significant part of what you identify as an inability to perform the function of Opposition”. This might be because your much-loved competitive, combative, majoritarian form of government is based on it?

          • PartisanZ

             /  December 11, 2017

            The common herd of humanity is almost inapplicable any longer as either concept or reality … It hangs on tenaciously in our utterly archaic Parliamentary system of so-called ‘democracy’.

            It’s time to find ways so more people can have more and more say in their own governance …

            Aotearoa New Zealand is in the enviable position of having a deadline for this [what is essentially] Constitutional Transformation to occur – 6 February 2040.

        • High Flying Duck

           /  December 11, 2017

          The fact remains, collaborative disagreement is not really disagreement at all.
          Without a credible opposition offering a completely different view and pointing out opportunity cost, issues with what is proposed and viable alternatives, decision making suffers.
          Everyone reaching consensus, even through internal debate, is not helpful if it results in the best solution to the wrong problem.

          And stats can say what you want. The UK currently have the 5th largest economy in the world and are not in the top 20 for population.
          Per capita figures are not helpful as they include places like Monaco and small island nations with no power, but high relative results.

          • Blazer

             /  December 11, 2017

            How do you assess whether legislated policy will be effective given your premise…’results in the best solution to the wrong problem.’?

          • PartisanZ

             /  December 11, 2017

            HFD – “The fact remains, collaborative disagreement is not really disagreement at all.”

            That’s a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Why do you say that? Have you ever taken part in consensus decision-making processes?

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making

            You seem to be referring to those entering into the process only being one Party or ‘side’? That’s not consensus at all …

            • High Flying Duck

               /  December 11, 2017

              Parti – What you have posted is exactly what I was speaking of.

              My experience of consensus and collaborative models is they very easily fall in to group-think.

              When everyone is trying to reach consensus in one direction, where is the ability to forge a different path?

              The Greens after the latest election said they simply could not work with National in any capacity as they are philosophically fundamentally incompatible. Should they have offered to be more consensus based?

              I’m not saying the adversarial position is perfect – far from it. What I am saying is that the nature of the current system provides for rigorous analysis and decision making and what you say is a reflection of a broken system is in fact one of its great strengths.

              Blazer – it is the current system that helps determine that. The Government puts their position forward and can implement policy based on its preferred direction. The opposition put forward their alternative vision and solutions. Every three years there is a referendum on which vision and direction has won public support. The Government has the advantage of incumbency and pointing to the results achieved.
              The opposition have the advantage of being able to promote theoretical outcomes that have not been tested.

    • Gerrit

       /  December 11, 2017

      Agree with your sentiments, in order for that to work we need to abolish list seats and have 120 electoral seat only.

      I like the idea of of voting for cabinet positions but would suggest that be done on a STV system.

      • Blazer

         /  December 11, 2017

        What case can you make for having…120 seats?

        • Gerrit

           /  December 11, 2017

          Feel free to enter what ever number you think would provide a democratic balance in parliament versus the number of voters.

          Naturally the Maori seats would have to go as they are not democratic in the realisation that a Maori seat contains far fewer voters than a general seat.

          Divide the eligible number of voters by the number of seats you would prefer. 60 or 600. The more seats the more democratic the parliament becomes, the more say local communities will have in that parliament.

          • PartisanZ

             /  December 11, 2017

            Might be possible if we could circumvent the ‘herd instinct’ Party system, otherwise you’re back to FPP with massive minorities like Social Credit’s 20% in 1981 getting bugger-all or no representation …

  10. Kitty Catkin

     /  December 11, 2017

    The reasons I have heard for unease about the current government is that so few voted for NZFirst and Greens. The vast majority did NOT want these as government, but we have them anyway.

    Winston Peters’ dirty work didn’t go down too well, either. I think that if he tried to bugger people about in this way a third time, he will be given a very hostile reception.

    • Blazer

       /  December 11, 2017

      TOUGH.

    • PartisanZ

       /  December 11, 2017

      The whole thing hinges on the word “proportional” Miss Kitty …

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 11, 2017

        You think that the Greens and NZ First were wanted by more people than wanted Labour or National ???

        • PartisanZ

           /  December 11, 2017

          No Miss Kitty, the Greens and NZFirst were wanted by the “proportion” of people in the voting population who voted for them. Why shouldn’t those people have some representation in our fucked-up Parliament?

    • Fight4NZ

       /  December 11, 2017

      Massive misrepresentation that the low proportion of votes for a minority party means a high vote against. There is only 1 vote per person, but very few that see merit in a single party only.

  11. tanyastebbing14@gmail.com

     /  December 11, 2017

    Actually it has always been the convention that the highest polling party gets to form government. That is what democracy is all about. The other problem is that a party with just over seven percent voter support and no electorate seat, got to choose the government. How is that even the least bit democratic? And yes, both NZ First and the Greens shed seats and votes big time, but get to be in government anyway. That is also an affront to a fair democracy. MMP should be dumped/reformed, and in time, I believe it will be. The next election will be a two-party drag race, as the minors once again all lose support.Even in Germany, under their MMP system, the largest polling party gets to form the government.
    The only people who say that there is no convention for the highest polling party to be government is those who wanted Labour. Typically dishonest. Stuff MMP, I cannot wait for it be finally given the boot it deserves. Not to mention that the list MPs are unelected and unaccountable!!

    • PartisanZ

       /  December 11, 2017

      So you’d welcome a return to this situation tanyastebbing14 –

      “The 1981 election, through the vagaries of FPP, allowed Muldoon’s government to hang on to power, albeit by the slimmest of margins [electorates won] … Labour had again received the most support from electors, winning 39% [of the popular vote] to National’s 38.7%”. – Chris Trotter ‘No Left Turn’.

      Social Credit got 20.65% of the vote. One in five people voted for them, “for which they were rewarded with the democratically outrageous total of just two parliamentary seats”. (ibid)

      I repeat, how fucked-up is this? So much for majority rules ‘democracy’. What you’re talking about is tyranny of the minority!

      We need to extend proportional representation, not retract it.

    • robertguyton

       /  December 11, 2017

      You beauty! Poster child for the toy-tossing losers!

  12. Zedd

     /  December 11, 2017

    methinks those who want to see the end of MMP are:

    1) [Deleted, use proper party name].. what a bunch of sore LOSERS
    2) [Deleted, use proper party name].. who dont have any friends/coalition options
    3) [Deleted, use proper party name].. who still campaigned on an FPP outcome
    4) The Right-wing media, who constantly kept doing an FPP type comparison
    5) those who voted NZF who said on ZB etc., they wanted them to go with [Deleted, use proper party name]
    6) kiwis who really just dont get MMP.. it is NOT FPP, its about coalitions & broader representation folks ! 🙂

    btw; we had a referendum several years ago & MPP was retained. Methinks it just needs some tweaking; lower 5% threshhold to 2-3%, end coat-tailing etc. maybe under this new Govt. this may get another look ?

    • Corky.

       /  December 11, 2017

      1) Natz.. what a bunch of sore LOSERS
      2) Natz.. who dont have any friends/coalition options

      Those are being worked on as you continue to dribble.

      • Zedd

         /  December 11, 2017

        @corky

        you didnt vote (so you claim)
        SO.. “Dont worry, be happy now” 😀

        • Corky

           /  December 11, 2017

          ”you didnt vote (so you claim)
          SO.. “Dont worry, be happy now” ”

          Worry? I’m not worried. Why should I be worried. I wanted Labour in government.
          Remember? Of course you do. No , I just thought I would mention it because
          I am happy at the moment. And yes, I didn’t vote. Vote for what? More of the same.
          I must be the only sane voice on this blog..Lol..quaff.

          • Gezza

             /  December 11, 2017

            I must be the only sane voice on this blog..Lol..quaff

            I suggest the evidence says the opposite.

        • Corky

           /  December 11, 2017

          Crikey, some people just don’t get when they are not wanted.

  13. Hollyfield

     /  December 11, 2017

    “For overseas observers, in NZ elections, we all vote then take the ballots—chuck them out—and ask a man called Winston Peters who won.” – Writer Ali Ikram tweeting about the 2017 election.

    This is what is wrong with MMP – and it’s not the fault of MMP, but of the politicians (and their supporters) too immature to look beyond their ingrained hatred of the other side.
    Imagine if there was a possibility that Labour and National could form a coalition on areas they could both work on, or Act and Labour, or Greens and National. Maybe it wouldn’t actually happen, but if there was the possibility that it COULD, it would remove the power that is currently given to just one man.