Why I like MMP

It seems that the fact that we’re having a Referendum at the same time as the election this year has been lost amongst all the election drama (lions and tigers and tea-tapes, oh my!). This is unfortunate, because the referendum is really important — it will affect what our parliament looks like for decades to come, not just the next three years.

I think this referendum is insanely important, but I do not want to tell you what to vote for. There is an abundance of information on the official Electoral Comission website that tells you how the referendum works, how the five different voting systems work (including five great videos explaining the systems), and how to decide which one(s) you like best.

However, I am going to say that I like MMP, and here’s why:

  • My vote counts, no matter where I live. Under solely electorate-based systems like FPP, S[&]M and PV, if I live in an electorate that traditionally has strong support for a particular party (e.g. Epsom for National or Mt Albert for Labour) but I want to vote for another party then my vote will probably be wasted. If I live in any electorate and support a smaller party (i.e. anyone other than Labour or National) then my vote will also likely be wasted.
  • My vote counts, no matter who I vote for. My vote influences which parties do or do not get into parliament. The exception to this rule is that my vote is wasted if the proportion of other voters who agree with me is less than 1 in 20 and the party I support does not have strong enough support in a particular area to win an electorate seat. However, this 5% / one electorate seat threshold is one of the aspects of MMP that will be reviewed in 2012 if at least half of us vote to keep MMP at the referendum this Saturday.
  • MMP creates more effective parliaments. Parliament is more likely to contain a diverse range of parties who are able and willing to debate the weaker points of legislation. This curtails the ability of governments to rush through legislation that is poorly thought-out, contains giant holes, or is generally bad. That said, despite this apparent ability of MMP to slow down the passing of legislation, National has done a wonderful job of rushing legislation through under urgency during their current term in government.
  • MMP creates more diverse parliaments that are more representative of the general population. The number of female, Maori, Pacific and Asian politicians have all significantly increased since we first switched from FPP to MMP (i.e., the proportion of these groups in parliament is now closer to their proportion in society). While I do think there would have been a trend towards more balanced political representation even without MMP, it is clear that young people, females, ethnic minorities and other minorities have a much better chance of getting into parliament on a party list than as an electorate candidate campaigning against a middle-aged (or older) white man.
  • I identify more with party policies than electorate MPs. I’ve grown up in an increasingly connected world; I can easily contact any politician using the internet, so I have no need to go down to my local MP’s office. I see no real need to have strong local representation in parliament; each electorate contains a diverse group of people, and local issues will generally be dealt with by local governments. The majority of legislation in parliament is voted for along party lines. List MPs (like Gareth Hughes from the Green Party) have demonstrated that they can campaign effectively and enthusiastically for localised issues (like the Auckland Rail Link) in areas that they do not live in.
  • I’ve grown up with it; it’s all I’ve ever known. When MMP was adopted in 1994, the entirety of my political knowledge was that New Zealand had a Prime Minister called Jim Bolger. My brother and I even had a duplo figure named after him!

I’d like to reiterate that if you haven’t already figured out how you’ll be voting in the referendum then you should check out all the resources on the official referendum website. While I have your attention (I still have your attention, right?) I’d like to also mention the reasons why you should vote:

  • Because there was a time when you couldn’t.
  • Because many people around the world still can’t.
  • Because under MMP your vote counts.
  • Because each party has very different policies this election, so the result of the election is highly likely to impact you.
  • Because you have no right to complain about the state of the country if you don’t.
  • Because this election we’re also holding a referendum on the voting system, which could affect what our parliaments and governments look like for many years to come, not just for the next three years (does this sound familiar?)

…so get out there and vote!

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2 thoughts on “Why I like MMP

  1. hmmmm i find the last 3 points interesting, i agree with the earlier ones though.

    I think diversity can have issues, it does mean that often things are not progressed fact enough or that the purity of an ideological vision/policy (if we had any) are often limited by the bureacracy that is created through diversification. In saying that I do support the idea of multiple viewpoints on an issue.

    I find the next point interesting as I found myself thinking the same thing. But mostly because I hadnt contacted my local mp even though i did have an excuse to. Maybe whoever the next one if I will make sure I email them and talk to them. I fell that as we nationalise ourselves maybe we do lose contact with our local mp, our local environment?
    In saying that though I wish my local government MPs had the power that central government mps did, i feel they would be someone I would like to approach with more day to day pragmatic issues unrelated to national policy, if of course they held a little more power and a little more money (as in budget)

    and last … even you know that just cos you’ve always lived with something doesnt mean its the best idea

    but then voting is still a good idea no matter your political ideology

    • It seems to me that the diversity and the effectiveness of a parliament go hand in hand, and that the more proportional and diverse a parliament is, the less ability a government has to effectively and quickly make decisions. I guess it’s up to each individual to decide whether they prefer “effective parliaments” (many viewpoints, lots of debate) or “effective governments” (a unified vision, fast progress).
      I don’t like the idea of a single group of the population (typically older richer white males) being able to make all the laws to suit them, so I prefer diverse governments. I think this is particularly important given (a) our cultural and ethnic diversity is continually expanding and (b) we still have a lot of work to do before we achieve gender equality. Consensus decision making will always be slower than dictatorial decision making but the end result is more likely to be accepted by the majority of the population, and also less likely to have unintended loopholes.

      I agree it would be nice if local governments did have the power and resources to act effectively on local issues!

      Hehe as for the last point, that was mostly tongue in cheek! God forbid I should still think Jim Bolger is a figure to trust and look up to…
      I know I do have many biases towards what I learnt while I was a child, but I like to think my rational side helps to mediate my decisions…

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