Democracy, MMP, STV and TOPPING themselves

There has been quite a bit of talk about our system of democracy recently. There are new calls for reducing our MMP threshold, which has proven to be to high and a democratic impediment to small parties in New Zealand, especially those attempting to get into Parliament for the first time.

Peter Dunne has suggested a switch to STV, while Gareth Morgan wants his own way rather than democracy in The Opportunities Party.

Dunne at Newsroom: Let’s get rid of MMP altogether

When politicians start to talk about making changes to the electoral system, it is time to be wary. They do not do such things unless there is something in it for them.

So when Justice Minister Andrew Little starts musing about a referendum to “tidy up” one or two “quirks” of the MMP system, rest assured that he is not doing so out of genuine concern for its credibility and wellbeing, but rather for the protection of the electoral wellbeing of the Labour Party.

Over the last thirty years since the Royal Commission recommended the move to MMP, both the National and Labour Parties have done their best to subvert it.

The major parties have done hat they can to preserve their size, status and perks, at the cost of better democracy,

An astute politician might infer therefore from that that the best way to guard against that public scorn in the future is to broaden the scope of Parliamentary representation, not restrict it.

A truly bold politician might go even one step further and promote the replacement of MMP altogether, and so do away once and for all with the alleged need for tinkering amendments, by moving to STV, the single transferable vote, whereby every MP is directly elected by a constituency and is accountable to that constituency. That would do away with the party list system whereby so many unknown candidates find themselves MPs, even if the electorate had failed to elect them  directly, or had even voted them out on election day. (How fair is the current system when for example, nearly one third of our current Ministers were rejected in individual electorate contests in 2017?)

Now shifting to a system where every Member of Parliament was directly elected would be a reform worth doing. It would certainly shake up the system; provide fairer and better representation; and make every MP directly accountable to a particular electorate, rather than the party bosses. For those reasons alone, there will be no politician bold enough to take it up, when the option of “tweaking” the system to preserve partisan advantage is so much easier.

But there is no chance of a major change to our electoral system in the foreseeable future. and Gareth Morgan has rubbished it.


And as TOP conducts a ballot to elect new party leadership Gareth Morgan has been throwing his weight around, trying to influence the ballot with his money. And mouthing off on Twitter some more:

“Appealing only to the privileged, university offspring of urban elites was never going to be enough for TOP. We need to draw as many active members from the tradies and the ZB listener segment. We haven’t, suggesting NZ is too fat, content and comfortable for our policies”

I doubt that Morgan is going to attract many tradies and ZB listeners. Or decent candidates – who would want to be lambasted by him if they didn’t do what he wants.

Bryce Edwards (Newsroom): The death of minor parties under MMP

TOP appears very unlikely to be a real contender in 2020, as the party is currently struggling to reinvent itself as TOP 2.0 and embroiled in a faction fight over its future.

Former deputy leader Geoff Simmons has been operating as the interim leader until now. But it’s not clear he will be elected, especially as Gareth Morgan is campaigning strongly for rival candidate Amy Stevens, an Auckland lawyer currently working for ASB.

Morgan has written a couple of Facebook posts in which he calls for a vote for Stevens, and explains why Simmons is the wrong person for the job. Morgan says Stevens is what TOP needs in order to connect with the centre right of the political spectrum: “what Amy Stevens offers is a business background not one as a public servant” and “she can relate to all those small business owners who are as familiar with the trials and tribulations of running a business”.

And as a bonus, Morgan – who gave $3 million to the party towards the last election – promises more money for TOP if Stevens is elected: “My money will be on Amy to lead the refresh that is TOP 2.0, as I think she’s sufficiently credible to attract the significant funders. I’ll certainly chip in if she’s leading.”

Clearly Morgan believes that TOP has become too liberal or leftwing: “TOP faces a big risk right now that it gets usurped by people who would otherwise vote Left or Centre Left. Our policy programme is for all New Zealanders, we are over-represented by members from the Left, Centre Left”.

Morgan gave TOP and chance in the last election, then ruined that with his antics online. With his dictatorial approach and his rubbishing of current leadership and supporters it looks like he is topping TOP.

Also from Edwards:

Could the next general election result in a two-party Parliament made up of just Labour and National? It seems highly unlikely – especially under proportional representation – and yet the 1News Colmar Brunton poll released on Sunday points to a scenario where we could be close to that.

The possibility that minor parties could be left out of Parliament altogether in 2020 is generally dismissed, often with the assumption that “the minor parties always do better during the election campaign”. This simply isn’t the case. For example, at the last election, support for both the Greens and NZ First plummeted during the campaign.

What’s more, ever since MMP was introduced, every minor party that has gone into government has subsequently received a worse party vote at the following election.

So there is a real risk to both Greens and NZ First. TOP look like self-destructing. The Maori Party, Mana Party and United Future look unlikely to return.

If David Seymour manages to retain the Epsom electorate it could be down to National, Labour and ACT after the 2020 election (but voters may decide they want to prevent this two party dominant scenario).

Meanwhile, the Labour-led Government is pondering bringing in some small fixes for MMP. But the proposal to reduce the 5 percent threshold to 4 percent is mere tinkering in the face of what clearly needs more radical thinking. Abolishing the threshold entirely, makes more sense.

The MMP threshold is proving to be a major barrier to the healthy flourishing of new minor parties. Of course, it’s not the only problem for the small parties. We therefore need a more serious think about the state of minor parties and how to allow them to prosper. If not, New Zealand’s multi-party parliamentary system might soon become a thing of the past, leaving the public with a choice, once again, of just two monolithic traditional parties.

There has been a lot of good discussion on this here at Reddit: Minor parties were supposed to be a big part of politics under MMP, yet they are in serious decline.


STV in action

Dave Cull won the Dunedin mayoralty, and the headline vote numbers are:

  • Cull 17,229
  • Vandervis 11,806

That was an unsurprising result. Cull was the incumbent, Vandervis was the best known challenger but while he gets support for challenging the establishment he loses support due to his volatility and clashes with, amongst others, Cull.

But those numbers weren’t reached, and Cull didn’t reach a majority, until eight other candidates had dropped out and their votes had been redistributed under the STV voting system.

On first preference votes (majority of 19,693 required):


  • Cull 10,686 (27.13%)
  • Vandervis 6,983 (17.73%)
  • Timmings 5,561 (14.12%)
  • Whiley 4,622 (11.74%)
  • Hawkins 3,029 (7.69%)
  • O’Malley 2,474 (6.28%)
  • Stedman 2,066 (5.25%)
  • Elder 1,710 (4.34%)
  • Barbour-Evans Scout 937 (2.38%)
  • Gray 711 (1.81%)
  • Bayne 607 (1.54%)

So Cull was a long way off getting a majority. He failed to get a clear majority right down to the final three:


  • Cull 14,815 (43.64%)
  • Vandervis 9,824 (28.94%)
  • Timmings 9,308 (27.42%)

2414 of Timmings’ votes were redistributed to Cull, 1982 to Vandervis resulting in a majority at the final iteration:



  • Cull 17,229
  • Vandervis 11,806


4,912 of Timmings last votes were discarded, meaning a lot of voters didn’t want Cull or Vandervis and didn’t rank them at all, or made a mistake at that stage of their ranking. That’s high but not surprising as both are quite unpopular.

This is how it was worked out (provisional results)


1 Cull Dave 10,686
1 Vandervis Lee 6,983
1 Timmings Barry 5,561
1 Whiley Andrew 4,622
1 Hawkins Aaron 3,029
1 O’Malley Jim 2,474
1 Stedman Conrad 2,066
1 Elder Rachel 1,710
1 Barbour-Evans Scout 937
1 Gray Abe 711
1 Bayne Athol 607

2 Cull Dave 10,746
2 Vandervis Lee 7,063
2 Timmings Barry 5,607
2 Whiley Andrew 4,653
2 Hawkins Aaron 3,062
2 O’Malley Jim 2,567
2 Stedman Conrad 2,118
2 Elder Rachel 1,777
2 Barbour-Evans Scout 965

3 Cull Dave 10,817
3 Vandervis Lee 7,138
3 Timmings Barry 5,634
3 Whiley Andrew 4,684
3 Hawkins Aaron 3,237
3 O’Malley Jim 2,619
3 Stedman Conrad 2,161
3 Elder Rachel 1,840
3 Barbour-Evans Scout 1,043

4 Cull Dave 10,941
4 Vandervis Lee 7,224
4 Timmings Barry 5,683
4 Whiley Andrew 4,731
4 Hawkins Aaron 3,480
4 O’Malley Jim 2,698
4 Stedman Conrad 2,207
4 Elder Rachel 2,055

5 Cull Dave 11,227
5 Vandervis Lee 7,463
5 Timmings Barry 5,832
5 Whiley Andrew 4,931
5 Hawkins Aaron 3,766
5 O’Malley Jim 2,907
5 Stedman Conrad 2,406

6 Cull Dave 11,502
6 Vandervis Lee 7,789
6 Timmings Barry 6,265
6 Whiley Andrew 5,241
6 Hawkins Aaron 3,924
6 O’Malley Jim 3,248

7 Cull Dave 12,000
7 Vandervis Lee 8,216
7 Timmings Barry 7,077
7 Whiley Andrew 5,745
7 Hawkins Aaron 4,233

8 Cull Dave 13,599
8 Vandervis Lee 8,755
8 Timmings Barry 7,424
8 Whiley Andrew 6,187

9 Cull Dave 14,815
9 Vandervis Lee 9,824
9 Timmings Barry 9,308

10 Cull Dave 17,229
10 Vandervis Lee 11,806