Otago Daily Times

MMP based on two forms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion

This is what you need to know about vot­ing and MMP. Rus­sell Palmer , of RNZ, ex­plains.

- US Elections · European Politics · Politics · Elections · US Politics · New Zealand · United States of America · Parliament

What is MMP?

MMP stands for mixed mem­ber pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, the elec­toral sys­tem used in New Zealand.

A ma­jor­ity of New Zealan­ders voted for it — twice, first in a non­bind­ing ref­er­en­dum in 1992, and again in a bind­ing ref­er­en­dum at the elec­tion the fol­low­ing year. It was in­tro­duced at the next elec­tion, in 1996.

MMP aims to en­sure that peo­ple will be rep­re­sented in Par­lia­ment both by a per­son in their lo­cal area (elec­torate), and by a group (a po­lit­i­cal party).

How does it work?

New Zealan­ders have two votes — one for a lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and one for a po­lit­i­cal party. You just pick the per­son in your area you think best ad­vances your in­ter­ests, and the po­lit­i­cal party that best rep­re­sents your in­ter­ests. Sim­ple, right?

The com­plex­ity comes in when try­ing to cal­cu­late how these votes trans­late into the seats avail­able for mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPs).

There are 120 seats:

Sev­enty­two are elec­torate seats and are won by can­di­dates stand­ing in spe­cific ar­eas.

Forty­eight are list seats and are al­lo­cated de­pend­ing on the pro­por­tion of party votes won, tak­ing into ac­count the num­ber of elec­torate seats each party has won.

Ba­si­cally, it all means that the pro­por­tion of party votes should be about the same as the pro­por­tion of seats in the Par­lia­ment. While elec­torate MPs will be­long to one party or an­other, vot­ers do not need to vote for an elec­torate rep­re­sen­ta­tive

that matches their party vote.

Other things to con­sider

A party has to win at least 5% of votes or an elec­torate seat to win a seat in Par­lia­ment.

If they win an elec­torate seat, the party gets al­lo­cated a per­cent­age of list seats based on their party vote.

If a party wins more elec­torates than its share of party votes al­lows for, ex­tra seats can be added to make up for the ‘‘over­hang’’ and en­sure the proportion­s remain cor­rect. This has hap­pened in three elec­tions, with 121 MPs in 2005, 122 MPs in 2008 and 121 in 2011.

So who wins the elec­tion?

In con­trast to some other coun­tries, the United States for ex­am­ple, the elec­tion in New Zealand is not vot­ing for the coun­try’s leader. Peo­ple vote only for the par­ties and elec­torates.

But some­one has to be in charge. Some­one has to make sure the or­gan­i­sa­tions do­ing all the man­age­ment of the coun­try — fund­ing hos­pi­tals and schools, re­pair­ing roads and in­fra­struc­ture, man­ag­ing pris­ons — all that ad­min­is­tra­tive stuff, and more, is be­ing done prop­erly.

This re­spon­si­bil­ity — and the power it en­tails — be­longs to the gov­ern­ment.

Who gets to be­come the gov­ern­ment is ba­si­cally which­ever party can get a ma­jor­ity — more than 50% — of the seats, based on their party vote. If none of the par­ties has enough to reach more than 50%, they must ne­go­ti­ate with each other about their plans un­til a com­bi­na­tion of the par­ties has more than half the seats.

This can re­sult in either a coali­tion — where the big­ger party and smaller party form a gov­ern­ment to­gether and come up with a com­plete pol­icy plan — or a con­fi­dence and sup­ply agree­ment, where the smaller par­ties agree to sup­port the main, gov­ern­ing, party on spe­cific poli­cies.

Un­der con­fi­dence and sup­ply, the smaller party does not need to sup­port poli­cies that fall out­side the agree­ment.

With 50% of the seats in Par­lia­ment, the gov­ern­ing party or coali­tion can de­cide what to change about how the coun­try works and en­act these de­ci­sions in Par­lia­ment.

The gov­ern­ing par­ties have most of the power. The par­ties that are not gov­ern­ing are known as the op­po­si­tion, and it is their job to crit­i­cise and poke holes in the plans the gov­ern­ment is putting for­ward.

Will MMP ever change?

Not ev­ery­one likes MMP, but last time we checked, more peo­ple wanted to keep it than re­place it.

In the 2011 elec­tion, a ref­er­en­dum — much like the recre­ational cannabis and endof­life choice ref­er­en­dums this elec­tion — was held to see if MMP was still the pre­ferred way of do­ing things.

The ref­er­en­dum asked two ques­tions: whether vot­ers wanted to keep MMP or re­place it, and se­condly what sys­tem would be pre­ferred if it was changed. Al­most 58% of vot­ers wanted to keep it, an in­crease of 3.91% over the 1993 bind­ing ref­er­en­dum.

Nev­er­the­less, the re­sult trig­gered an Elec­toral Com­mis­sion to re­view how well MMP was work­ing.

The re­view rec­om­mended changes in­clud­ing:

Lower the 5% party vote thresh­old to 4%.

Abol­ish the elec­torate seat thresh­old for al­lo­cat­ing list seats.

Re­move the over­hang seats pro­vi­sion.

Con­sider fix­ing the ra­tio of elec­torate to list seats at 60:40.

None of these changes have been im­ple­mented.

Although it is un­likely New Zealand will switch from MMP, it is pos­si­ble we will see change to some of the rules. — RNZ

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