Today’s NZ Herald editorial reflects on the outcome of the UK referendum on Preferential Voting as an alternative to First Past the Post and saying how ‘lucky we are’ to have managed the reform of our 19th Century unfair First Past the Post (FPP) system.
The arguments for electoral reform were familiar to New Zealanders. A two-party choice no longer satisfies nearly all voters as it did a generation ago. Up to 25 per cent of voters are supporting other parties, but the system is not translating their votes into the same proportion of seats in Parliament.
MMP produced a bonus of a far more representative Parliament, in addition to enhancing the legitimacy of our democracy by not disenfranchising significant sections of voters.
Experience with MMP suggests voters for third parties are not interested in proportionate power, they want their vote represented in Parliament, not necessarily in the Government. Increasingly, the small parties have kept their distance from the governing party they support, preferring confidence and supply commitments to a formal coalition.
The Green Party have never given ‘confidence and supply’ to any Coalition Government [edit: other than the 1999-2002 Labour-Alliance one], yet has managed to work constructively with parties from all sides of the political spectrum.
All five elections under MMP have produced government by the party that was first past the post. Proportional representation has changed less than its advocates hoped or its opponents feared. Minority governments still rule, tails have not wagged dogs, stability remains. The previous Government lasted nine years; polls suggest most voters want the present Government to have a second term.
The word “Mixed” is overlooked when people criticise or attack MMP. MMP is not a pure ‘proportional representation’; it acknowledges our political heritage, which for many includes a focus on electorates and Electorate MPs. It also acknowledges the reality that voters in New Zealand focus on a ‘party’ and elect parties to office rather than individuals.
MMP is working well and could be better with some refinements. If it fails this year, it will be given a second chance against the preferred alternative. It deserves to survive – but voters are not theorists on electoral fairness, they want the system that produces the Government they want.
We have a system that works, for voters the process is be simplicity itself and it is ‘two ticks, one for an electorate MP and one for a party. There is little reason to upset the present arrangements – especially to return to FPP or one its surrogates such as has been proposed by Don Brash.