I realised yesterday that there was only a very short amount of time left to write my submission for the MMP review if I wanted to be heard in person. In fact 5pm Thursday is the deadline, if however you would like to make a submission after this date you can make a written on up until the end of May and there will be a second round of consultation later in the year.
Below is my submission, all a bit of a rush and not as well researched as I would have hoped and some bits of it I hadn’t actually given any thoughts to until today. But I will ponder it overnight an submit it tomorrow.
I am currently a student at the University of Waikato. My experience relevant to this submission is my involvement in a variety of political groups including standing as a candidate in the 2011 general election. Provisionally I would like my submission to be heard when the hearings are in Hamilton.
Threshold : Strongly recommend removing the threshold
I believe the threshold should be removed entirely. I think that this is the fairest, most democratic and simplest way of ensuring representation in parliament.
I believe it is fairest because it effectively eliminates the problem of having an electorate MP carry a few list MP’s into parliament with them, while a party with a larger share of the vote will get no representation, such as ACT and New Zealand First in the 2008 election.
It is the most democratic because in essence if a party gets enough votes to win a single seat than they will get a seat. I find it disheartening that under the current system we are effectively telling people that everybody gets an equal say in parliament unless your views are unpopular (not shared by at least 5% of the population). This would still be present in a parliament with no threshold but less people would go unrepresented and it is a more natural way of representation than an arbitrary threshold.
I think this is the simplest method of dealing with the threshold because we would only need a single, the electorate seats would no longer have any significance for determining list representation. Because of the non-arbitrary level of the threshold it would also be much easier to explain to people.
Having said all this while I do have a strong preference for removing the threshold I would look upon any reduction of the party vote threshold positively as an improvement in the current situation.
List MP’s Standing in By-Elections: Oppose
It is my feeling that list MP’s should not stand be able to stand in by-elections, there are two reasons why I argue this, the first is due to the proportionality of parliament and the second is because of the interference with parliamentary business.
Since the proportionality of parliament is not being determined at the time of the by-election and the party lists and public support could be as much as two and a half years out of date it seems unfair to me that a new list MP should be added to parliament.
I feel that it is not in the best interests of the New Zealand public for a list MP to spend time away from parliament to campaign for an electorate seat when the net effect of this campaigning will possibly be the addition of a different MP. I believe that it is fairer for a party in that situation to put forward the next person on their list and let the List MP undertake their parliamentary work.
Dual Candidacy: Support the Status Quo
I strongly support retaining the status quo regarding dual candidacy. Speaking as a former candidate it is my belief that by removing the possibility of dual candidacy we would see a dramatic decline in the quality of electorate candidates and a resulting loss of democratic competition at the electorate level.
It is my belief that without dual candidacy serious, quality candidates would not put themselves forward for the most electorates which were not considered safe for their party. These seats would be effectively uncontested which would further erode the significance of the local campaign. For many people the debates between the local candidates are still an important tool in their political education and I believe that the overall quality of debate and democracy would decline if dual candidacy was removed.
Party List Ranking: Strongly Support making party internal list ranking more democratic, moderately support making the party lists open to the parties voters.
It is my understanding that in any system of list ranking, either open or closed the parties will present still form an internal list to present to the public. For me the main focus of any changes to list ranking should be to make this more list a true representation of the opinion of the parties membership. I would like to see a tightening of the rules around what constitutes democratic list ranking to ensure that every party member has an equal say on the list and that any criteria regarding gender, region or factional representation has to be decided at an AGM and made known to the members before list ranking.
To a lesser extent I would support making the party lists open as ultimately the list MP’s are elected to represent the people that voted for the party not the membership of the party. I would strongly recommend making this process as simple as possible, I quite like the option used in Finland for this reason.
Overhangs: Moderately support removing overhang seats and instead subtracting the last few list candidates elected.
It has to be recognised that a mixed member system is always going to have difficulty managing to ensure both systems of representation work effectively. In the case of a party wining more electorate seats than total seats they are entitled to I would support retaining the parliament at a size of 120 but decreasing the number of list MP’s by a proportion equal to the number of extra seats won.
In the current system every party is sightly under-represented in parliament to compensate for the over representation of one party. Under my proposal one or two or occasionally more parties will be significantly under-represented to allow this one party to be over-represented, the only advantage is that parliament will remain at 120 MP’s in all ordinary circumstances.
Demographic Changes: Support removing the South Island quota for electorates. Or increasing the size of parliament to reflect population growth.
Proportionality is the key principle that ensures that our version of democracy functions in a fair manner. I think that steps need to be taken to ensure that proportionality is maintained throughout future parliaments. I think that ensuring at least a 70-50 split is very important.
As such I believe the easiest and most popular solution will be to remove the restriction on the number of South Island electorate seats and instead make every electorate represent about 1/70th of the population. I don’t feel that the argument that electorates will get too big can really be maintained when we have electorates like Te Tai Tonga. Although I believe it will be less popular and therefore less desirable I would also accept setting a fixed population per electorate and increasing the size of parliament to maintain the 70-50 proportionality, this can be done with or without the South Island quota.
Other matters- Preferential Voting: Support Preferential voting for candidates and possibly for parties depending on the other recommendations of the review.
I find the idea of preferential voting attractive in electorate contests. Although I think that the effects will largely be marginal sometimes preferential voting can yield significantly different results than plurality voting. This can be seen in the 2010 Wellington Mayoral election. I also feel that this will enhance the power of local voters and make them more likely to vote for their favourite candidates as opposed to their preferred candidate out of the leading two.
In terms of making the party vote preferential I would support this under the status quo, however if the threshold is eliminated I feel that a lot of the reason to have preferential party voting would be removed. I also feel that if an open list system is adopted then the party vote would simply become to complicated for voters to effectively engage with the process. I would prefer open party lists to preferential party votes.
Thank you for your time and consideration.