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Doubting MMP

Entry 1110, on 2009-11-02 at 22:08:01 (Rating 3, Politics)

In the past I have always been a supporter of MMP but now I'm beginning to wonder whether it really is the best political system. Actually, no one should ever say its the best political system and the real question is whether its better than the major alternative: first past the post (FPP). For those of you who don't live in New Zealand (or another country with a proportional system) let me explain: the old system we had, FPP, meant members of parliament were voted in when they got the highest vote in their electorate. With MMP we maintain that system but also allocate extra MPs by using the percentage vote for parties. So if a party got 10% of the vote but none of its members got a majority in an electorate extra MPs would be allocated to take their representation to 10%.

There's an obvious advantage here because it means that voters get the representation they voted for. In FPP it would be common for a party to get over half the number of MPs (so they could form the government) even though they got a lot less than half the vote. There were also cases where a smaller party got a significant percentage of the vote but no representation in government or even the opposition.

There will be a referendum on the subject at the next general election in 2011 but a survey published today already shows 49% of respondents want to dump it, only 35.8% would keep it, and 15.2% don't know. By the time various pressure groups start their propaganda campaigns before the referendum I would be surprised if a much higher variety don't want to have MMP dumped.

As I said above I have been a supporter of MMP in the past because it is more representative and I think it moderates the powers of the big parties, but I am more doubtful about the whole process now. I really don't like the current government's minority partners: the Maori Party and Act. I inherently dislike a party which is based on racial politics because its always going to divide the country and work for special privileges for one group based on race. And Act is almost as bad except they want the already privileged business elite to have even more privileges than they already have now.

So I think my previous thought that MMP moderates the power of the major parties is true but that doesn't mean we get more moderate politics. So far National has managed to control the crazies from Act but can that really last? In many ways we would all be better off if a fairly moderate center-right party like National did govern on its own. Of course there's no guarantee that they won't pursue an ideological campaign of privatisation and other right-oriented actions later in their term in government.

In New Zealand I don't actually see any small parties which are very attractive any longer. The Maori party is racist, Act are a bunch of rabid ideologs, the Greens have lost all of their good people, Jim Anderton is just one person, United Future is too conservative and religious, New Zealand First has an unstable leader. So that really leaves the two major parties. Labour are in disarray and will take a while to rebuild so maybe National really are the best choice to govern alone.

One thing's for sure, the decision about whether we keep MMP or dump it is unlikely to have much to do with what's the best system for the majority of New Zealanders. Its more likely to be about which pressure groups have the biggest budget and who can push their propaganda through the media most effectively. If that's the case then MMP is practically gone already.

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Comment 1 (2555) by Jim on 2009-11-05 at 10:55:11:

Well I never thought I'd see the day that OJB admitted that his attachment to MMP was wrong. And what about his approval for National? Maybe he has finally seen the light!

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Comment 2 (2556) by OJB on 2009-11-06 at 09:03:53:

I still think MMP is a better system than FPP. The problem is that the minor parties aren't a very attractive option at the moment and the ones which do have power are among my least liked. I guess that's politics though: you need to take the bad with the good.

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Comment 3 (2557) by SBFL on 2009-11-12 at 11:45:11:

The Maori party is racist, Act are a bunch of rabid ideologs, the Greens have lost all of their good people (insert: actually all their rabid ideologues bar Keith) Jim Anderton is just one person, United Future is too conservative and religious, New Zealand First has an unstable leader.

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Comment 4 (2558) by OJB on 2009-11-12 at 17:08:10:

I don't think the Greens are quite as ideological as Act but I guess that all gets back to where you consider the center should be. I currently think the center is to the right of where it should be so it makes Act seem more reasonable and the Greens more ideological than they would be otherwise.

Setting that aside, do you agree with my overall point on MMP as it is currently?

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