The pros and cons of do­ing deals

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

This year’s elec­tion land­scape will soon be­come clear, as the full ar­ray of the elec­torate deals be­ing done un­der MMP are un­veiled.

So far, there has been a strik­ing dif­fer­ence be­tween Na­tional’s ap­par­ent will­ing­ness to pur­sue such deals, and Labour’s re­fusal to en­ter­tain them. Some will ap­plaud Labour for its stance. Oth­ers will lament a po­ten­tially self-de­feat­ing re­luc­tance to ex­ploit the wrin­kles within our cur­rent elec­toral sys­tem.

The main mech­a­nism for MMP deals is the ‘‘elec­torate coat-tails’’ pro­vi­sion, whereby a party that wins an elec­torate seat can bring other MPs into Par­lia­ment, in line with the ra­tio of party votes it re­ceives na­tion­wide.

In Ohariu, one in­cen­tive for Na­tional to do a deal with Peter Dunne is that Dunne’s United Fu­ture Party polls so poorly na­tion­wide that Ohariu could be­come an ‘‘ over­hang’’ seat that would in­crease the size of Par­lia­ment, as well as the cen­tre-right’s net tally of seats.

(Sim­i­larly in 2011, the Maori Party won three elec­torate seats and cre­ated an over­hang, since its party vote share earned it only two seats.) In Ep­som, the Act Party can­di­date David Sey­mour can re­al­is­ti­cally hope to bring in an­other Act MP on his coat-tails. In both cases, Na­tional has an ob­vi­ous in­cen­tive to deal.

As for the Con­ser­va­tive Party...if Na­tional hands an elec­torate over to party leader Colin Craig, sev­eral other Con­ser­va­tive MPs will en­ter Par­lia­ment on Craig’s coat-tails. A size­able bloc of so­cially con­ser­va­tive MPs would seem very likely to in­flu­ence the so­cial agenda of Na­tional’s third term, via their coali­tion agree­ment with Na­tional, post elec­tion.

For that rea­son alone, the Con­ser­va­tives’ party list is loom­ing as a mat­ter of con­sid­er­able pub­lic in­ter­est.

Cur­rently though, Na­tional is strug­gling to find an elec­torate MP will­ing to step aside for Craig. Rod­ney MP Mark Mitchell and likely Up­per Har­bour can­di­date Paula Ben­nett are re­fus­ing to sac­ri­fice their elec­torate am­bi­tions, leav­ing East Coast Bays MP Mur­ray McCully as the likely, re­luc­tant ‘‘vol­un­teer’’ for Craig.

Of course, given Craig’s wacko pub­lic per­sona, Na­tional may sim­ply be en­gag­ing in a pan­tomime of re­luc­tance, and try­ing to look as if it is be­ing dragged to the al­tar.

The pub­lic strongly dis­like MMP deals. The 2012 MMP re­view sought to scrap the coat­tails pro­vi­sion, and lower the MMP vote thresh­old to 4 per cent. Out of naked self-in­ter­est, the Na­tional Govern­ment chose to ig­nore those find­ings.

Mean­while, Labour has sought to tap into the pub­lic mood by re­fus­ing to do MMP deals with any­one. It re­jected a Greens of­fer to cam­paign as a joint cen­tre-left bloc.

More­over, Labour also re­jected do­ing any deal with In­ter­net Mana to en­sure the re­turn of Mana Party leader Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tok­erau, de­spite the cen­tre-left can­di­dates he could bring in on his coat-tails.

As blog­ger Danyl McLauch­lan has in­di­cated, Labour has a greater in­cen­tive to do a quiet deal else­where.

If Mana can­di­date An­nette Sykes wins in Wa­iariki for ex­am­ple, that would top­ple the Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell, and Harawira would then al­most cer­tainly come in off the party list.

Iron­i­cally, that sce­nario would leave Kim Dot­com with no In­ter­net Party MPs what­so­ever, de­spite his do­nated mil­lions.

Labour is vir­tu­ously claim­ing to be un­in­ter­ested in any such deals. For now, the field re­mains wide open for Na­tional to ex­ploit MMP to its own ad­van­tage.

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