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October 29, 2011 | by  | in Features |
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Wellington Campaign For MMP on why you should vote for MMP on 26 November

On 26 November this year, you will get an opportunity to vote in the referendum on our electoral system. As not all electoral systems are created equal, here are some arguments for why you should vote to keep MMP at the ballot box.

Mixed member proportional (MMP)—a parliamentary system in which seats are allocated according to the total number of votes each political party receives—came about in New Zealand after a referendum to change the voting system in 1993. The referendum was in response to the huge dissatisfaction with the then-voting system, First Past the Post (FPP). Under FPP, governments were elected by a minority of voters and could easily pass unpopular legislation. Many votes were wasted, and elections were normally decided by a small number of “swing seats”. This was highlighted in consecutive elections throughout the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. The change to MMP has meant a fairer democratic political system that ensures your vote counts wherever you live in New Zealand.

Currently under MMP everybody’s party vote has equal weight in the makeup of Parliament. It means that parties that have support spread across the country rather than in one electorate can have this overall support reflected in parliament. Under the old FPP system voters only got an electorate vote—not a party vote—so if you were a Labour voter in a safe National seat or vice versa there was little chance your vote would make a difference. Under MMP, your Party vote counts no matter where you live and you still get an electorate vote to choose the local representative you believe represents your local community.

Furthermore MMP is a proportional system which means that the makeup of Parliament mirrors how the population voted in the election. This is probably the most important characteristic of the system—it means that the number of seats that parties get in Parliament reflects the share of the party vote they receive. The math is simple, if a party gets 15 per cent of the party vote they get 15 per cent of the seats in Parliament. Other systems such as First Past the Post or ‘Supplementary Member’ (SM) do not deliver a proportional outcome and tend to deliver overwhelmingly to incumbent parties rather than a Parliament that reflects the true opinions of voters.

MMP means that Parliament is more diverse and so are our Governments. Major established parties are required to work with other parties to pass legislation, a process which leads to a wider range of views being considered. It means that law making is more cooperative and more considered. Due to such changes MMP has ensured governments can no longer ram through deeply unpopular legislation at will, as was common under FPP in the 80s and 90s—they are required to discuss, cooperate and make a clear case for change.
MMP means that Parliament looks a lot more like modern New Zealand and less like olde England. This has been demonstrated by an increased diversity of ethnicity, gender and political perspectives in our Parliament. Such diversity in our Parliament better reflects New Zealand and means that more groups get a voice at the decision making table. Electoral system research tells us that a switch back to a non-proportional system such as FPP or SM would make such diversity more difficult to achieve and sustain. One clear advantage of MMP is that it allows MPs to represent constituencies other than geographical electorates. In our current Parliament we have MPs that are able to act as representatives of the GLBT community and our younger MPs often choose to advocate on youth issues. MMP allows for representation that better reflects society.

On 26 November this year you will get to vote in the referendum to decide whether or not MMP stays. Furthermore, if a majority of voters elect to keep MMP in the referrendum MMP will be independently reviewed and recommendations for any amendments will be considered. This means a vote for MMP is not only a vote to ensure we continue to have a more democratic Parliament—it will also be a vote to make MMP even better.

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Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

Comments (2)

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  1. Bono says:

    Heck yeah bay-bee keep them coinmg!

  2. Normal Nick says:

    Yes, vote for MMP and then get it changed. The government has promised a review if MMP wins this referendum. [1] One MP is 0.833% of the 120 members of parliament, so the threshold for a party to enter parliament with one MP should be 0.833% of the total vote. [2] Vote for the candidate’s position on the party lists. [3] Abolish the constituency seats altogether. Constituency MP’s have never represented the people of their constituency anyway. That is a myth. They all vote the way their party tells them to. That will give us a truly proportional parliament.

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