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MMP Submission

MMP Submission

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Published by David Farrar

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Published by: David Farrar on Apr 04, 2012
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Submission of David Farrar to the MMP Review
Table of Contents
 About the Submitter1
Party Vote Threshold1 - 3
Electorate Seat Threshold4 - 5
By-election Candidates5 - 5
Dual Candidacy5 - 7
List Ranking7 - 8
Overhangs8 - 8
Proportionality8 - 9
Other Issues9 - 9
Summary of Recommendations10 - 10
About the Submitter 
This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. Iwould like to appear before the Commission to speak to mysubmission.2.I have over 15 years experience with the Electoral Act. As a formeparliamentary staffer I advised National Prime Ministers and OppositionLeaders on the Act. I have been an electorate campaign manager anda national campaign staffer, requiring intimate knowledge of the Act.
I have also done considerable original research on electoral issues,was an invited member of an “experts” group that reviewed the recentelectoral finance changes, blog regularly on electoral issues and havebeen an invited speaker to various forums on electoral issues.
Party Vote Threshold
First of all I support there being a threshold for parties to enter Parliament. In the absence of a threshold, a party would gainparliamentary representation with 0.4% of the vote (using the St Lagueformula), which would be the de facto threshold.5.Having such a low threshold with be extremely detrimental to NewZealand in two major ways – stability of Government and encouragingextremist hate groups.
The stability issue has been well demonstrated in countries with verylow thresholds. The Netherlands is one example. In 2002 their generalelection saw 10 parties elected to Parliament, and no one or two partyGovernment possible even if it included the two largest parties. Finallya three party Government was formed, which included the three largest
 Page 1 of 10
Submission of David Farrar to the MMP Review
parties in Parliament (this is less stable than coalitions with one largeand one or two small parties!). This Government lasted 86 days.
In early 2003 elections were held again. It took four months to form aGovernment, and then the Government collapsed before the nextscheduled election. The next elections were held early and aGovernment again formed. This Government also collapsed before thenext scheduled election. Then after the 2010 election again it took four months to form a Government, and since then the Government has lostits majority but still governs.8.The other more well known example is Israel. They have had aplethora of unstable Governments, partly due to the very low thresholdthey used to have. They have increased it over time so it is now 2%,but in the views of Israeli politicians I met when visiting in 2009, itneeds to increase further.9.The current Knesset has 12 parties in it, seven of which got under 5%.The Government consists of six parties. The more parties that have toagree to pass a law, the more difficult it is to govern. This is not anargument for single-party Government, but for the fact that a highlyfractured Parliament makes Government stability more difficult.
Some people have the view that the only thing that matters for anelectoral system is proportionality, and that nothing else matters. Themore pure the proportionality, the better it must be. I think that is adangerously naïve view of Government, and generally expressed bythose who have no actual experience in it. There is strong empiricalevidence from overseas about the impact of a very low threshold.11.The other argument against no threshold is that it will promoteextremist parties, and also make them more powerful. By extremist I donot mean a party with very low levels of support, but ones that try andgain support by vilifying minorities. If you need only 1% of the vote togain parliamentary representation, then you don’t need to worry aboutbeing detested by 95% of the population if it allows you to gain your 1%. Even worse, such a party might then hold the balance of power.12.Having argued against having no threshold, or a very low threshold, Ido believe there is a case to lower the current party vote threshold from5% - especially if the electorate seat threshold is removed.13.I have studied (and blogged the results) of what would have happenedin the six MMP elections with thresholds of zero (effectively 0.4%), 2%,3% and 4%.a.In 1996, no threshold would have seen two extra parties and a2% to 4% threshold would have seen one extra partyb.In 1999, three extra parties come in with no threshold, and oneextra party with a 2% threshold
 Page 2 of 10
Submission of David Farrar to the MMP Review
c.In 2002, four extra parties come in at no threshold and none at a2% threshold.d.In 2005 only one extra party would have come in with nothresholde.In 2008 three extra parties would have come in at no threshold,and one extra party at 2% to 4% threshold.f.In 2011, two parties would have come in at no threshold and oneparty at 2% threshold.14.Putting aside the electorate seat threshold, five parties made 5% in1996, five in 1999, six in 2002, four in 2005, three in 2008 and four in2011.15.This suggests to me that the current party vote threshold is toodemanding, and should be lowered. In deciding what to lower it to, it isuseful to look at how many MPs a party would probably get at variousthresholds. At approx. 2% it would be three MPs, 2.8% four MPs, 3.6%five MPs, 4.4% six MPs.16.I think there are a number of reasons a 4% threshold is best
It means a parliamentary party would always have at least fiveMPs. It can be difficult to function as a parliamentary party withfewer MPs than that.b.The Royal Commission recommended 4%.c.It is easier to lower the threshold in future if warranted, than toincrease it. If 4% over time was found to still be too challenging,it would be relatively easy to lower it further. If one lowered it toofar though, it would be difficult to convince Parliament to reversedirection and increase it.
I propose that the party vote threshold be set at 4%, as originallyproposed by the Royal Commission.
 Page 3 of 10

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