A weakness of parties, not of MMP

Karl du Fresne claims that the way coalition negotiations were conducted (with Winston Peters in charge) is a problem with MMP, but I think he has the wrong target. Peters was allowed to run the post election process because National, Labour and the Greens let him.

All political systems have weaknesses. It largely comes down to how much politicians try to exploit them or allow them to be exploited.

Stuff: Winston Peters top of the political pops with willingness to exploit wonky system

For the first time since New Zealand adopted the MMP system in 1993, the party that won the biggest share of the vote didn’t form the government. How we arrived at this outcome was down to one man: Winston Raymond Peters.

Nope. There were four parties and four party leaders responsible for the procedure and the outcome.

The Peters party, aka New Zealand First, won 7 per cent of the vote. It lost three of its electorate seats in Parliament, including Peters’ own.

That’s incorrect. NZ First only had one electorate seat, won by Peters in a by-election in Northland early last term. They lost that plus reduced their list seat allocation.

Despite this less than resounding endorsement by the people of New Zealand, Peters ended up determining the makeup of the new government.

Many insist, bizarrely, that this is an example of MMP working exactly as intended, but I would argue that it points to a gaping void in our constitutional arrangements – one that allows a politician whose party commanded an almost negligible share of the vote to decide who will govern us.

7% is not ‘almost negligible’ in this situation.

The MMP system allowed for a wide variety of ways for negotiations to be conducted and for a Government to be formed.

The National, Labour and Green parties al played a part along with NZ First, as did three party leaders as well as Peters.

Nonetheless, for his willingness to exploit this wonky system to his advantage, and for the sheer audacity of the way he went about it, Peters is a hands-down winner of my award for Politician of the Year in 2017.

It isn’t ‘a wonky system’.

It’s in the nature of politics for leaders and parties to work a political system to their advantage as best they can, it would be ludicrous if they didn’t.

Peters was allowed to run the negotiation process simply because the other parties and leaders allowed him to. That isn’t a fault in the MMP system. It was how all parties and leaders and MPs allowed it to happen.

And, so far at least, the end result has worked ok, with a secure majority in Parliament.


  1. David

     /  January 14, 2018

    I dont see how there could be any other scenario than Peters deciding, the Greens said they wouldnt work with National so really it was Shaw and Peters at 7% respectively won the election.
    Worse now the illigitimate government has been formed on the whim of 2 unpopular and flaky politicians they now drive the policy agenda, much as I despise Peters for the person he is he has clearly huge power over a weak and inexperienced Ardern and is making the calls on legislation tempering her socialist and far left instincts.

    • Blazer

       /  January 14, 2018

      what a load of…tripe….even for you Dave.Get used to MMP.

    • duperez

       /  January 14, 2018

      Do you really think you can make any serious points when you use “illigitimate [sic] government”?

    • PDB

       /  January 14, 2018

      The govt IS legitimate but I agree with you that Peters was the only one who had a decision to make when both sides (Labour/Greens & National) wanted to govern. From what we now know National-NZL First was never a serious option for him once he decided to take senior National politicians to court prior to making his decision.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 14, 2018

    Blame the voters, not their muppets. Stupid beliefs have consequences. We got the government we voted for. Now live with it and see if we can learn from it to do better next time.

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  January 14, 2018

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Ms Ardern failed to make a lasting impression on NZ politics.