Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: MMP Review #1: The Party Vote Threshold

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  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Richard Aston,

    I was thinking more historical precedent re the Chathams, but you do raise an interesting point there.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2152 posts Report Reply

  • Hans Versluys,

    1 MP parties are mainly electorate ones and they are exempt from the threshold (which indicates that there are two classes of MPs - John Banks always labeled them as Clayton MPs) This 'discrimination' is not solved unless the threshold is 1/120th. Also, the fragmentation of parliament under MMP so detested by majoritarians is due to electorate MPs (and MPs splitting off their main parties) not the list system or threshold. The 5% in Germany isn't actually working very well to keep the Nazis (or Pirates) out of their parliaments either these days.
    Pity we can't have the Israeli system. Maori may actually be better represented by a range of parties under PPR (pure proportional representation) as they will have wider party choice than currently.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2011 • 29 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    we want a diverse parliament rather than the expected 3-party model a lot of people were expecting

    I'd argue that only the Greens have made an unequivocal go of MMP.

    The Alliance and Progressives are gone. United Future and ACT are now just single electorate MPs. NZF won't survive Winstons anticipated death or retirement.

    The Maori Party has always been an electorate thing, and is also on its way out.

    Mana might grow, if they can consolidate Hone's position and gain grassroots support with the confidence that votes won't be wasted. But they probably won't, at least not before the Great Economic Collapse.

    [ This isn't that the voters wouldn't embrace more parties, but that the parties that emerged were based around one slightly unhinged person's worldview. Or a few very unhinged peoples wordview, in the case of ACT].

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    Last time we talked about the thresholds, I wrote a quick & dirty app to suss the numbers for different threshold levels. I updated it today with the date from 1999 onwards (1996 data is some crusty PDF and I don't have time at the moment to transcribe it). So, here are the results under 5% | 2.5% | 0% thresholds with an explicit assumption that the electorate seat lifeline is continued:


    1999
    Labour Party 49 | 49 | 48
    National Party 39 | 39 | 37
    ACT New Zealand 9 | 9 | 9
    Alliance 10 | 10 | 9
    Green Party 7 | 7 | 6
    New Zealand First Party 5 | 5 | 5
    Christian Heritage Party 0 | 0 | 3
    Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 0 | 0 | 1
    Future New Zealand 0 | 0 | 1
    United NZ 1 | 1 | 1
    The Peoples Choice Party 0 | 0 | 0
    South Island Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Republican Party 0 | 0 | 0
    OneNZ Party 0 | 0 | 0
    NMP 0 | 0 | 0
    Natural Law Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Libertarianz 0 | 0 | 0
    Mauri Pacific 0 | 0 | 0
    Freedom Movement 0 | 0 | 0
    Animals First 0 | 0 | 0
    Mana Maori Movement 0 | 0 | 0
    McGillicuddy Serious Party 0 | 0 | 0
    2002
    Labour Party 52 | 52 | 49
    National Party 27 | 27 | 25
    New Zealand First Party 13 | 13 | 12
    ACT New Zealand 9 | 9 | 9
    United Future 8 | 8 | 8
    Green Party 9 | 9 | 8
    Alliance 0 | 0 | 2
    Outdoor Recreation NZ 0 | 0 | 2
    Christian Heritage Party 0 | 0 | 2
    Jim Anderton's Progressive Coalition 2 | 2 | 2
    Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 0 | 0 | 1
    Mana Maori Movement 0 | 0 | 0
    OneNZ Party 0 | 0 | 0
    NMP 0 | 0 | 0
    2005
    Labour Party 50 | 50 | 50
    National Party 48 | 48 | 47
    New Zealand First Party 7 | 7 | 7
    Green Party 6 | 6 | 6
    United Future 3 | 3 | 3
    Māori Party 4 | 4 | 4
    ACT New Zealand 2 | 2 | 2
    Jim Anderton's Progressive Coalition 1 | 1 | 1
    Destiny New Zealand 0 | 0 | 1
    OneNZ Party 0 | 0 | 0
    99 MP Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Libertarianz 0 | 0 | 0
    New Zealand Family Rights Protection Party 0 | 0 | 0
    The Republic of New Zealand Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Direct Democracy Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Alliance 0 | 0 | 0
    Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Christian Heritage Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Democrats for Social Credit 0 | 0 | 0
    2008
    National Party 58 | 55 | 55
    Labour Party 43 | 42 | 41
    Green Party 9 | 8 | 8
    New Zealand First Party 0 | 5 | 5
    ACT New Zealand 5 | 5 | 4
    Māori Party 5 | 5 | 5
    Jim Anderton's Progressive Coalition 1 | 1 | 1
    The Bill and Ben Party 0 | 0 | 1
    Kiwi Party 0 | 0 | 1
    United Future 1 | 1 | 1
    RAM - Residents Action Movement 0 | 0 | 0
    Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 0 | 0 | 0
    New Zealand Pacific Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Family Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Alliance 0 | 0 | 0
    Democrats for Social Credit 0 | 0 | 0
    Workers Party 0 | 0 | 0
    The Republic of New Zealand Party 0 | 0 | 0
    Libertarianz 0 | 0 | 0
    2011
    National Party 59 | 58 | 57
    Labour Party 34 | 33 | 33
    Green Party 14 | 13 | 13
    New Zealand First Party 8 | 8 | 8
    Conservative Party 0 | 3 | 3
    Māori Party 3 | 3 | 3
    United Future 1 | 1 | 1
    ACT New Zealand 1 | 1 | 1
    Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 0 | 0 | 1
    Mana 1 | 1 | 1
    Alliance 0 | 0 | 0
    Democrats for Social Credit 0 | 0 | 0
    Libertarianz 0 | 0 | 0

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    I support a 0% threshold for because I believe that more inclusion in our democratic system is useful. Check out that list above, if we had a 0% threshold, the ALCP would have been in parliament in 1999, 2002 and 2011. And that, given the impact of our draconian cannabis laws, would have been a Very Good Thing.

    Sure, we'd also get fringe elements like Destiny NZ. I'm not overly concerned with that, though, could they actually be worse than ACT ?

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Tinkler,

    I finally got the first draft of my submission finished. at under 3 pages much shorter than I anticipated.

    I suspect there are 3 millions different opinions in New Zealand on how MMP should work.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2010 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • dave crampton,

    So that’s why I’m pushing for 2.5%. I don’t appear to be alone

    Having just stumbled across this post - and nearly finished my submission, yep, you are not alone. I have recommended 2.5% also.

    welli • Since Jan 2007 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    0% threshold. Anything higher is simply asking the question "what proportion of NZers are we prepared to have unrepresented?". For me the answer is 0. Given we're stuck with 120 MPs I presume this means in reality the 0.83%, at the moment, although I'd prefer to say zero, because that is what I personally mean. 1 seat, effectively.

    Every other number is picked out of thin air, and the justifications very much remind me of the justifications given in the 19th century to prevent women from voting. They were all fabricated around preserving the existing power structures, and some of them so patronizing that they actually slip under the radar of common sense.

    They wouldn't be effective

    Like that's a reason at all. If they're not effective, then it wouldn't matter if they were there or not. Also, it's not like effectiveness is a guaranteed quality of any elected representative.

    They shouldn't have power, because they can't wield it responsibly

    Another classic old chestnut - as if it's ever possible to learn to wield power responsibly if one is never given the chance, indeed as if it is even possible to know if power could be wielded responsibly when it is denied. And as if the current power wielders are paragons of responsibility.

    The system would become unstable

    The virtues of stability not having been proven, this one is actually a tautological argument, which boils down to "We can't change the system because then it would be different". Yes, existing power structures might be challenged a little bit. Mikaere has done a good job above of showing just how much that would be. Very little. ACLP, Destiny, Bill & Ben, Kiwi Party all might have got one seat out of 120. Wow, catastrophic.

    It's more pragmatic

    Can't think of a reason, but feel it instead. Firming up on that wild unjustified stab in the dark, in much the same way one firms up on how many gods should be in the pantheon. Let's go with something a bit like what we've got now, but moving in the right direction (without just committing that the natural end point of moving in the right direction is sitting there as an obvious choice). Let's be conservative about it, trust in tradition and the preserved wisdom of generations, rather than making a wild radical move to allow one more party into parliament each time, with one seat, and prevent the madness of what happened to NZF in 2008.


    Only the last of these reasons makes any sense to me. It's conservative to the point of cowardice, when we consider that the chance to make real change to our electoral system comes up maybe two or three times in our whole lives. Every time we get a chance to have a big think about the rights of humanity, and most times, we sacrifice those to pragmatism. So change comes at a glacial pace, and everyone feels comfortable, except of course all the people who are excluded. Ironically, the party that has been most systematically excluded from our system represents a viewpoint that is not even radical in NZ. More people think the laws on cannabis in this country need to be changed, than voted for the National party.

    I doubt a change will really make any difference, though. That's the funniest irony of the pragmatism excuse. Nothing would really change in NZ anyway, so locking in that it can't change really serves only one purpose - to show that human rights aren't our priority. But if that's how people feel anyway, it wouldn't matter if it was locked in or not. They'll vote accordingly, and have been doing so for years. A conservative country doesn't actually need a conservative constitution. Indeed NZ is so damned conservative it doesn't need a constitution at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Given we're stuck with 120 MPs I presume this means in reality the 0.83%

    I better clarify there - up to 0.83% excluded on any particular representation. Across multiple parties this could add up to a much higher number in total. The only solution to that in a representative system would be to have more total representatives. It's hard to know exactly how much the granularity at this level kills off representation, forcing people to choose a candidate less likely to mean no representation for them. Maybe if there were 1000 MPs, with a 1 seat threshold, we might have a hundred people getting 0.1%, meaning 10% of the electorate voting for these obscure people.

    Any thoughts on how the answer to that could possibly be known are welcome. Is there a PR system out there with a much larger parliament and no threshold? Does it have a high proportion of tiny parties?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to BenWilson,

    Is there a PR system out there with a much larger parliament and no threshold?

    There are 400 members of the South African lower house elected under closed-list proportional representation (200 from provincial lists, 200 from national lists).

    At the last election in 2009, the following parties were elected:

    African National Congress - 264 seats
    Democratic Alliance - 67 seats
    Congress of the People - 30 seats
    Inkatha Freedom Party - 18 seats
    Independent Democrats - 4 seats
    United Democratic Movement - 4 seats
    Freedom Front Plus - 4 seats
    African Christian Democratic Party - 3 seats
    United Christian Democratic Party - 2 seats
    Pan Africanist Congress - 1 seat
    Minority Front - 1 seat
    Azanian People's Organisation - 1 seat
    African People's Convention - 1 seat

    13 other parties received no seats.

    The African People's Convention (the lowest successful party) received 35,867 votes (0.20%).

    Does it have a high proportion of tiny parties?

    In New Zealand, 2.48% of MPs represent a party with only one member. In South Africa, only 1% of MPs do. If we follow South Africa's method, and have no threshold, we can expect therefore to have a de facto one party state, and a reduction in the number of parties in Parliament :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    On current voting numbers and assuming 120 seats allocated by the modified Sainte Laguë method, the absence of a vote threshold would give a first seat in the House to every party recording around 25,000 votes.

    Actually, it is around half this. In 1999, United NZ would have attained a seat with only 11065 votes, and last year the ALCP would have done the same with only 11738 seats.

    With no threshold, you'd probably see more parties with a specific focus (e.g. ALCP), but I think the electorate would be able to sort out the ones that were worth keeping.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    If we follow South Africa's method, and have no threshold, we can expect therefore to have a de facto one party state, and a reduction in the number of parties in Parliament :-)

    ;-0 Heh. Actually, since 1 of our seats is about the same size as 4 of theirs the number of seats they have with 1 of our seats worth of representation is 21/4. So it's like they have a touch over 5 one party seats. Spread across 9 parties.

    But yeah, one data point from a country very dissimilar to NZ doesn't help too much.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Mikaere Curtis,

    Actually, it is around half this. In 1999, United NZ would have attained a seat with only 11065 votes, and last year the ALCP would have done the same with only 11738 seats.

    You missed this bit: allocated by the modified Sainte Laguë method.

    They were still wrong, but not by nearly as much :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Good God, what were they trying to install ?

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Farquharson,

    Dear All,
    It is fascinating to see everyone going on about mmp and what the threshold should be. The threshold isnt the problem, it is how many politicians there are.
    Most of my (over 50) friends think that most politicians are self serving scum who want to control far to many aspects of our lives and get paid too much. and that 120 of them is far too many and that should be halved. Complaints about how hard they have to work fall on deaf ears.
    If there were fewer of them less would get done. Which is a good thing. Might be less knee jerk reactions and un needed legislation passed

    Dunedin • Since Apr 2012 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Has anyone found if PACE have any more explanation of their adoption of the 3% recommendation? I've found a couple of mentions of it via a quick search, but they seem to be as part of either resolutions or a report. The second link gives a wider explanation but it almost seems to be taken as read

    http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc10/EDOC12107.htm

    http://assembly.coe.int/main.asp?Link=/documents/workingdocs/doc07/edoc11203.htm#13

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 894 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    The biggest question is how would people's vote change if there was no threshold. We can see how it's changed with one, less votes for Christian parties, the hunter/fisher party, no stable socialist party, and it's very hard on centrist groups.

    I'd suggest we'd end up with a radical socialist party, some sort of Christian conservative group (or two), a proper libertarian party, and a nationalist centre, to go with Green, Labour, and National. Also probably some single issue MPs like animal rights, drug law reform, copyright reform, and so on, for the young folk to vote for. Broader representation like that could easily pull in more voters to the polls, meaning you really need 14k or more votes.

    Hopefully it'd pull the libertarians out of National, the marxists out of Labour, the nutters out of the Greens, and do away with all that shady electorate gifting.

    Since Nov 2006 • 480 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    @ Tussock - Which nutters do you want ot of the Greens?
    I voted Green for their Social Policy & like the cross-dressing secretary for their party meetings in Christchurch. A grey beard and womans kilt is quite a striking ensamble.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1147 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis, in reply to Just thinking,

    Which nutters do you want ot of the Greens?

    This meme is a result of the MSM to paint greens as fringe and weird. As soon as you discount greens as being secret-agenda-driven, tree-hugging eco-extemists, the sooner you can ignore the fundamental green message that actions have consequences and maybe we should reduce the negative consequences by altering our actions.

    Anyway, Green Party policies are developed by the members, which means any nuttiness gets moderated out pretty quickly. And since the Green Party MPs are obliged to support policy, what you get is moderated, cohesive parliamentary objectives.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ian Farquharson,

    Most of my (over 50) friends think that most politicians are self serving scum who want to control far to many aspects of our lives and get paid too much. and that 120 of them is far too many and that should be halved

    [ I think you mean 'too many', not 'to many'. Also, you should possibly work on your use of commas ]

    But in any case, has it occurred to your aging friends that those politicians are only there because they (and others) voted for them? If they don't like the politicians they are getting, they could try voting for different candidates and parties. When you put an X for National, the people on National's list get elected.

    It can't be that hard to understand, even for the senile. Maybe it is, and we should consider an upper voting age or qualified suffrage based on reasoning ability.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    Hi Graeme
    First time poster. You have done some great work. Could you clarify a couple of points please. Someone raised the matter of having a seat number threshold ( say three seats minimum), rather than focus on the party vote %. What is your view of the workability of this? I wonder if it could have some strategic value, in seeking to address the EC's issue concerning the minimum number of seats required for 'effectiveness' in Parliament. If a public referendum (should one occur) decided this was an adequate number, as they might, this would reduce the party vote threshold to 2.5% thereabouts. That is a much better outcome than even a hoped for 3%. Could I have your views.

    Further, I don't understand the EC's logic concerning the minimum of 5 MP's required for 'effectiveness'. Currently, if a party wins one electorate but less than 5% of the PV, they enter parliament alone - they are by the EC's definition ineffective. I am sure they would beg to differ, as would their constituents- (but who are they to say?) Further, in proposing to abolish the 'coat tails' provision of the one electorate seat threshold, they add to the likelihood of solitary party MP's entering the house, exacerbating 'ineffective MP syndrome'..

    Some of the most significant political changes have occurred through the efforts of lone MP's leaving their parties on principle, such as Jim Anderton, Turiana Turia, and who have for a time been alone in the House How could their role be deemed to be ineffective?

    I would value your thoughts.

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Mikaere Curtis,

    I support a 0% threshold for because I believe that more inclusion in our democratic system is useful. Check out that list above,

    Thanks for posting that list, hadn't seen this thread before. For better or worse 0% seems the most transparent representation of who we collectively really are.

    your taxed dollar • Since Mar 2008 • 1691 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Steven Peters,

    Could you clarify a couple of points please.

    Yes =)

    Someone raised the matter of having a seat number threshold ( say three seats minimum), rather than focus on the party vote %. What is your view of the workability of this?

    Emminently workable. Do the calculation once with all parties in it. All parties with at least 4 MPs in the result go back for a second go 'round, keeping the MPs that gives them. I have considered suggesting it myself, it just seems unlikely. We've gotten used to percentages. You could also just have a set number of votes (e.g. 50,000). There are number of alternatives other that a straight percentage.

    Further, I don’t understand the EC’s logic concerning the minimum of 5 MP’s required for ‘effectiveness’.

    They don't have a logic. It feels about right. I don't know why they didn't look at our actual history and consider whether our past 1 MP, 2 MP, 3 MP and 4MP parties were actually effective, because I think history shows that most of them were most of the time. And were certainly more effective than a zero MP party!

    Further, in proposing to abolish the ‘coat tails’ provision of the one electorate seat threshold, they add to the likelihood of solitary party MP’s entering the house, exacerbating ‘ineffective MP syndrome’.

    I've argued that in the past, but I'm not actually sure it's true. Certainly, if the votes stay they same, then it will happen, but votes will change. Would John Banks have won Epsom if there was no coat tail rule? Would Rodney Hide? If not, then the number of 1 MP parties would reduce.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Peters,

    Gr8 to get a response.
    Yes, percentages seems to be 'their' chosen 'language'. Perhaps best to stay with that, and not muddy the waters? What is your view? That way we can concentrate on other weak points in their case re the 4% threshold the EC propose.

    I agree that their argument concerning 5MPs for 'effectiveness' does not stack up against the facts. There have been loads of examples of fewer than five MP's. Jim Anderton, Turiana Turia, Bruce Beetham, Hone Harawira come to mind, and they have been/are important in our politics. I think they are using as an argument to exclude 'very small' parties from the house, to avoid 'instability and fragmentation'. A party, or parties, gaining the votes of 80 - 90,000 each and therefore under the 4% threshold, should have their votes counted, not given to larger parties.
    If three parties get 80k votes each, that's 10% of the party vote ignored.

    I agree that the one seat threshold should go. Yes on further thought, electorate MP's have an electorate function primarily, whereas the commission say they are worried about 'ineffective' parties in the house, from the party vote.

    Can you clarify for me how the party threshold waiver works for 'ethnic' or regional parties in Germany?
    .
    Thanks

    CHCH • Since Oct 2012 • 96 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Emminently workable. Do the calculation once with all parties in it. All parties with at least 4 MPs in the result go back for a second go ’round, keeping the MPs that gives them. I have considered suggesting it myself, it just seems unlikely.

    I'd suggest a system like STV where all the votes get counted, and then you start lopping parties off at the bottom, redoing the calculation until all parties are above the threshold for X MPs. Instead of the votes being lopped off being redistributed, the total number of votes included in the counted votes would just fall.

    Otherwise you might have a party that was 1000 votes off the required number missing out, but once you got rid of all the minor parties they'd actually have made it. I guess you could get the same now with parties that have almost 5%, and if it was recalculated without all the smaller parties they would have made it.

    I can't see it ever happening through. Would be somewhat weird to have the number of votes required to reach parliament adjusted not only by the number of voters, but where exactly they cast those votes.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

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