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Scared of MMP

Entry 1053, on 2009-07-15 at 22:16:20 (Rating 4, Politics)

Why are conservatives so scared of MMP? Many of them seem to be in a constant battle to eliminate it, but I can't really see why. Before I go any further I should explain to those of you from other countries that MMP (which stands for mixed member proportional) is a voting system used in New Zealand (and elsewhere) which ensures proportional representation in government.

New Zealand swapped to MMP from FPP (first past the post) in 1996. In the FPP system each electoral seat was won by the candidate who got the most votes there and the government was formed by the party which got the most seats.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of each system? Well the big problem with FPP is that the government often had much less than half the vote yet had all the power, and smaller parties could often get a significant fraction of the vote but have no representation at all, not even as part of the opposition.

Most people would say that MMP overcomes that problem but it also introduces some new ones! To make up the correct number of people in parliament each party adds members from a list. These people are never voted for directly although the party they represent is voted for. Another problem is that a smaller party might hold the balance of power and that might give it more influence than its share of the vote would suggest.

There are other voting systems which are better than both FPP and MMP but they tend to be complicated. STV for example, is probably the fairest of all but only a computer can get to the final result. That shouldn't be a problem but seeing democracy happen is more important than the actual process of it working.

The National Party have said they will hold a referendum on MMP, so we seem to have the possibility of another referendum in a few years time which might be as badly worded as the current one we will be facing soon: the infamous anti-smacking question which I have commented on before.

According to a recent poll by UMR Research the preference for the two systems is almost equal (about 40% for each) so its hard to say what the result of a referendum might be. One interesting aspect of the poll was that younger people like MMP much more than older people so that itself might be a good reason to continue using it.

Almost 70% of people want a referendum on the subject and about the same want the number of MPs reduced. The question about the number of MPs is often associated with MMP because when we switched we also increased that number. And that is a trick being used by opponents of MMP who are connecting the two: people who want to reduce the number of MPs might think that dropping MMP is necessary to do that, but it isn't.

When asked whether they thought MMP had a positive or negative effect on politics in New Zealand 32% said positive, 24% negative and 37% were fairly neutral which is a bit odd considering the number who want change.

So that's the end of the statistics and sensible discussion. Now its time for the rant...

The poll I mentioned above was commissioned by a new organisation called "Put MMP to the Vote". Most likely this is a reincarnation of "the Campaign for Better Government" which was all about getting worse government for the majority of people but more power for a rich and corrupt elite.

A major organiser of the earlier campaign was Peter Shirtcliffe, a former chairman of Telecom and, like many people associated with Telecom at the time, a fairly disgusting individual. And no surprises he's associated with this latest campaign as well as another clown by the name of Graeme Hunt who wrote a book titled "Why MMP Must Go: The Case for Ditching the Electoral Disaster of the Century".

So it looks like the old propaganda machine will be cranked up again, no doubt propped up by the considerable personal fortunes these two have at their disposal. And a well funded campaign of misinformation could easily be enough to push the majority away from MMP.

But really MMP has positive effects for the conservative right as much as the left. The current government has been influenced by the loonies at Act more towards the right than they would be otherwise so I would have thought people like Shirtcliffe and Hunt would be happy about that.

Still, I think what they really have in mind is to get back to the bad old days when the party in power could do just about anything it wanted to without any control from its coalition partners and where the party in power might represented only 30-something percent of voters.

Yes, I guess at least they aren't pretending this is a campaign for better government this time. No doubt "Put MMP to the Vote" is also a bit misleading - I think "the Campaign for a Big Step Backwards" might be more accurate.

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Comment 13 (2270) by SBFL on 2009-07-23 at 07:32:56: (view earlier comments)

To the contrary, I earlier stated that the 2008 election the party donations are published. I think at elections.org.nz.

Hmmm, knock yourself out at: http://www.elections.org.nz/record/donations/
...and compare with votes, or relative vote changes to the previous election.

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Comment 14 (2272) by SBFL on 2009-07-23 at 10:53:45:

Okay let's look at some analysis, firstly from someone probably politically close to you (to avoid accusations of bias):
‘A far-left social libertarian’

with:
Does political advertising work?

and:
Myth 5: Academic studies show money makes a big difference in politics

and:
Greens spent $1.7m in 2008 election campaign

and:
Labour continues to be the party of big money

Then there´s the pragmatist right-of-centre DPF with his analysis (based on facts):
Big donations in 2008

and:
Third Party expenditure in 2008

etc etc. I hope this makes my point clear.

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Comment 15 (2275) by OJB on 2009-07-23 at 19:41:11:

Well I have to give you credit for producing something which could almost be seen as evidence even if it is just in blogs. Who knows, maybe you're right, but the 2008 election was over before it started. It would have taken a lot to give Labour any chance of winning so I don't necessarily think that proves anything.

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Comment 16 (2343) by votetheday on 2009-08-04 at 08:46:02:

So what the result will be like of this referendum? Will the smacking be forbidden once and for all? Predictions are accepted here.

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Comment 17 (2344) by OJB on 2009-08-04 at 09:06:33:

What! No "this is a stupid question which I refuse to vote on" option?

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