Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: MMP Review #2: Dual Candidacy

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  • Jake Pollock,

    You don't have to be an electorate candidate to stand up at a meet the candidates meeting and say “I'm not asking for your electorate vote, I'm asking for your party vote”

    It doesn't seem unreasonable to limit an electorate race to people who actually want to represent the electorate.

    It seems to me that these two points are contrary. If you're not an electorate candidate, surely the only rights you'll have at the candidates meeting is to ask questions as a member of the general public. Why should the Rotary give you a platform at their meet the candidates evening if you're not a candidate and the race has been limited to people who want to represent the electorate?

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    “Jordan’s greatest complaint about MMP was that it was unfair that when a party lost an electorate it got an extra list seat (and sometimes even the very same MP). He argued that this meant that parties (and MPs) could ignore the wishes of the middle New Zealanders who make up the marginal electorates.”

    Well, only if somehow a party is losing electorates whilst keeping its party vote the same – which seems somehow unlikely. “Ignoring the wishes of middle New Zealanders” (whatever THAT means) seems a pretty good way to lose votes full stop … which then impacts upon a parties overall numbers in the House. And losing numbers in the House then hinders a party being a part of Government (or getting its way when a part of Government). And THAT’S the dynamic that really drives parties’ actions.

    As for the idea that forcing electorate candidates to rely only on winning their seats to return to Parliament will somehow encourage them to become more independent/prepared to buck their parties – why will it work now when (as you note) it didn’t under the old FPP system? Marilyn Waring/Jim Anderton are (in)famous simply because they were so rare, despite all MPs having to rely on their electorates to returnt them. And under MMP we’ve had Damien O’Conner and Nikki Kaye go against their parties. So … how are things “worse” now?

    The real problem, it seems to me, is that NZ doesn’t have the numbers in the House to allow for a tradition of strong back bench independence. With an executive of some 20-30 members, virtually every MP can have dreams of one day being a Minister … which requires them to keep their nose clean and support their party. So if you want some MPs who need to look for an alternative career option (in terms of being an effective backbencher, rather than serving time till they move to the front) then you need more MPs.

    And finally, there IS something stopping list only candidates standing before voters at candidate meetings and asking for votes. They need to be asked to them. And if, for instance, Dunedin North had a bunch of no-name electorate candidates up against David Clarke (because the other parties know Labour is going to win the seat), then it is them who would get asked to Dunedin North candidate meetings … and not Meteria Turei and Michael Woodhouse (who you can bet would be list-only candidates).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 151 posts Report Reply

  • mic weevil,

    "Banning dual candidacy will simply encourage the Greens to become the “MMP Party” they purport to be"

    I think the biggest downside to the idea of prohibiting dual candidacy is that it disincentivises a party to run strong candidates in seats that are safe for the opposition. Parties won't want to risk their highest value people not making it into parliament, which could lead to the lowering of the quality of competition in safe seats. Small parties will be disincentivised from running a strong candidate in any electorate at all (other than special case like Ohariu & Epsom) so the electorates will become de facto FPP races. Which for all intents & purposes will be no different to how things are now.

    The other problem with it, which I think is the clincher, is that it doubles the number of candidates a party has to run in order to contest every vote. For the 2 big parties who currently contest nearly every electorate this won't be an issue, but for small parties who don't have the resources to run strong electorate campaigns in addition to their national one, this could mean the small parties just get less local exposure during campaigns.

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    The clincher for me is that banning dual candidacy increases the load on the local people running the candidate forums and community newsletters. Instead of 3-6 candidates for the seat+list you'll have 2-4 seat candidates plus a number of parties. You can bet that no matter how safe the seat the opposition parties will still be trying to collect some list votes, even if they can't justify putting much effort into their seat candidate.

    So the "meet the candidates" organisers have to choose between chasing up the 2-3 candidates, or chasing up those plus 5 or 6 or 7 party representatives. I think that a lot of the time the extra work will not be done. Or worse, will be half done - 2-3 candidates plus 2 out of the 7 parties in parliament.

    I'd much rather see Mike Ward vs Nick Smith vs Maryan Street at a Nelson candidates debate than Nick Smith vs whoever the opposition can afford to lose in an election.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 497 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Jake Pollock,

    Why should the Rotary give you a platform at their meet the candidates evening if you’re not a candidate and the race has been limited to people who want to represent the electorate?

    Because the reason why groups like Rotary Clubs run meet the candidate meetings is to inform the public about voting. If someone happens to be running a "meet the candidates and talk only about local issues and no-one mention the party vote" forum, then there won't be a reason to have . At the 1999 election, National didn't stand a candidate in Wellington Central, but Annabel Young still attended the candidates forum I went to.

    And last year, the candidates forum I went to, in an electorate where United Future wasn't running a candidate still included someone on the party list.

    There will be some organisers who don't want to invite list-only candidates. When people realise that the meetings aren't very interesting or useful when many of the parties aren't present, that will stop.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Andrew Geddis,

    As for the idea that forcing electorate candidates to rely only on winning their seats to return to Parliament will somehow encourage them to become more independent/prepared to buck their parties – why will it work now when (as you note) it didn’t under the old FPP system?

    Except maybe it did work under first past the post. Maybe the reason National or Labour never even adopted some policy was because electorate members in marginal seats who feared for their jobs spoke out loudly in caucus, in a way that they're possibly discouraged from doing now because those who stand up to party leadership risk having their list ranking suffer?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    I changed my mind a couple of times reading this Graeme, which proves how even handed you are
    But I am inclined to think it comes down to which do we want, strong Parties or strong MPs looking after their constitunents
    Living in a large rural electorate away down south I know what I prefer

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 545 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I disagree for a range of reasons:

    1. It is a good democratic principle that anyone should be able to stand in an election, and that it is for the voters to choose the winner. Restricting who can stand as a candidate detracts from this.

    2. Both list and electorate MPs are equally validly elected. It is often argued that unpopular electorate MPs who lose their seats “sneak in” through the list. This is not a reasonable argument – list MPs are in Parliament because a group of people voted for them, just as electorate MPs are. If you object to the members of a parties list, then don't vote for that party.

    3. The removal of dual candidacy would have the effect of encouraging strong candidates to shun marginal electorate contests in favour of the list. In Wellington Central, we have often had high profile electorate MPs - this wouldn't happen with the change you suggest - we'd have a succession of newbies who would, if successful, move on after their first term.

    4. MMP enables voters to select the electorate candidate they want without affecting the party outcome (especially if coattailing is abolished), enabling them to vote sincerely rather than tactically. If parties withdraw from the electorate contest in some areas, this will be lost.

    5. I don't think we have any legal requirements in NZ (as in places overseas) to invite all candidates to forums. There is a convention, however, that this is done. If the process becomes fragmented, it's likely that big party electorate candidates will dominate the debate.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4484 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Geddis,

    @Graeme: "Except maybe it did work under first past the post. Maybe the reason National or Labour never even adopted some policy was because electorate members in marginal seats who feared for their jobs spoke out loudly in caucus, in a way that they're possibly discouraged from doing now because those who stand up to party leadership risk having their list ranking suffer?"

    I would have thought you'd have a better reason for considering a major change to the structure/workings of MMP than "maybe things were different under FPP", without any actual evidence one way or the other. I mean, isn't it just as likely that under single-party FPP Government there was greater pressure on MPs to toe the party line so as to allow Government to get its way, whereas under MMP the members of a party caucuses have more scope to shift their position (given that accommodations must be made with support parties in any case). And in any case, what's the difference between low-ranked list MPs who know a drop in party vote will spell an end to their careers and marginal electorate MPs? Why isn't the incentive for the former to speak out against potentially unpopular policy just as great as the latter?

    So who really knows? And if we don't know if any good consequences will follow, then proposing a change that (I think) has demonstrably bad effects (in terms of who parties will run in non-marginal seats) is a bit silly.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 151 posts Report Reply

  • dave crampton,

    One of the benefits of banning dual candidacy could easily be that not only do we get stronger local representation, but we may also get list MPs who can focus more on the broader national constituencies they’re supposedly there to represent

    I disagree with you ( and that doesn't happen very often!). Let me use Hekia Parata as an example - never won an electorate contest, has an electorate office in Mana, has regularly represented Mana constituents, as well as her broader constituency (and is now a capable minister). It is hard to see that banning dual candidacy in such an instance will result in stronger local representation ( in a broader sense) , as she`ll choose not to contest Mana and ignore candidates meetings. Mana voters will be the losers and Parata will merely focus on being a Minister, spend less time in serving her broader constituency, and drop the focus in Mana. Kris Fa'afoi would drop his guard a little, meaning local representation will in fact be weakened if dual candidacy was abolished. And Mana by-elections will not be as interesting.

    welli • Since Jan 2007 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I think you're throwing the baby out to pursue a fantasy.

    Firstly, list MPs act as local representatives, just as electorate MPs do. Archaic Parliamentary rules prevent them from advertising themselves as "the MP for [electorate]", but they open offices, do constituency work, and all the functions we expect of geographicly-based MPs. They just choose their location in a rather different way from electorate MPs.

    Secondly, I'd argue that not only have we never had "strong local representation" in a floor-crossing sense, but we haven't in the "strong arguments in caucus" sense either. The 80's and 90's prove that. But more importantly, this simply removes the visible whip - the list - for the invisible one - electorate candidate selection. The parties do control this, and while they let us peasants have a bit of a say sometimes, they go to great lengths to ensure that their members do not make the "wrong" choice.

    Basically, if you want weaker parties, then legislate for weaker parties. This distorts the electoral system in unpleasant ways (all of which favour big parties - which is why they're suddenly keen on it), while doing SFA to achieve its intended goal.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1667 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Except maybe it did work under first past the post. Maybe the reason National or Labour never even adopted some policy was because electorate members in marginal seats who feared for their jobs spoke out loudly in caucus, in a way that they're possibly discouraged from doing now because those who stand up to party leadership risk having their list ranking suffer?

    That's an awful lot to chuck on a "maybe".

    I have a better solution: stronger requirements for democratic candidate selection, both for list ranking and for electorate candidates. Let party members vote, and decide for themselves whether they want yes-men or the independent representatives you desire. That's far better targetted at the problem you want to solve, while doing far less damage to other aspects of our electoral system.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1667 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    But does our current form of MMP really allow for strong local representation?

    No. Local representation in the state government has always seemed like a daft old system to me. Where you live is but one of a hundred factors that matter to you in your choice of who represents you. By dividing the country into little pieces you magnify the importance of that one, but I can't really see any reason why that is necessary. It only matters to us because our system is designed to make it matter. We could vote on parties/candidates because of where they live, even if that wasn't built into the system.

    But that isn't changing. We're stuck with electorates for the foreseeable future, so Graeme's question is interesting. I'm pretty sure that banning dual candidacy would make electorates more important again. I think they're far more important than they should be already so I'm against it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    p.s. you are all doing a pretty good job so far of helping to cease my wavering :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3011 posts Report Reply

  • JLM,

    Not sure how relevant this is to this discussion, but under the current fpp electorate vote system who wins a local electorate can be a bit of a lottery, and plenty of people get in on a lot less than 50% of the vote. So winning an electorate may be more prestigious in current thinking (not mine, I add), but it's also more random. I can see the potential for two streams within a parliamentary party not really working well together because there is very little crossover.

    Judy Martin's southern sl… • Since Apr 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Tinkler,

    I think the question is wrong. It is looking at the sympton and not the cause.
    My draft reply to this question is
    "3. Dual Candidacy
    Candidates should be able to stand in both electorates and list if they and their party agree.
    However I think that the number of sitting MPs (both electorate and list) should be limited in numbers that appear on the list to say 15 "

    Wording needs some work

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2010 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Graham,

    When Damian Christie asked the four candidates featured on the Ōhariu electorate special of TVNZ7's Back Benches to raise their hands if they wanted people to vote for them, only two of them did. Lots of people stand knowing that they won't win, but putting your name forward for election when you don't even want to win seems almost dishonest, and I'm not sure we should be writing our electoral laws to benefit those who wish to run in order not to be elected.

    I think the Ohariu campaign was because we use FPP for electorates. The Greens wanted their supporters to vote for Charles Chauvel so Peter Dunne didn't return to Parliament. National wanted their supporters to vote for Peter Dunne to give themselves a natural partner in Parliament and hopefully pick up another MP from list votes. The only way for them to achieve this in FPP was to ask people not to vote for them. Or not run at all, I guess, but they might feel that is worse than running but not trying very hard. If we used instant run-off instead of FPP then candidates could campaign for first choice votes without fear of vote splitting.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas,

    Whatever challenge posed to smaller parties this would be far harder for labour and national who must gamble many of their electorate candidates to what could be a very close call. Do they risk Carmel Sepuloni or Paula Bennett to win the electorate or go for a weaker candidate who then wins taking a place off their list.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas,

    Sometimes what we want from a local MP is just plain competence. If this went through I doubt any MP with half a brain would choose to stay as an electorate candidate if it was vaguely marginal. That would mean many seats would be represented by MPs who are inexperienced, desperate or stupid. Not a big change from what we have now but still, why tip the rules to actually encourage munters in parliament.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Smith,

    I was convinced that we need to keep dual-candidacy because of the effect on competition for electorates if we don't.

    Parties won't risk their smart, articulate capabale candidates to electorate seat races that may see them excluded from Parliament altogether. This would lead to marginal seats not being contested (or being contested less effectively with candidates parties could afford to lose) and reduce voters electoral options. The standard of electorate MPs would fall as sitting MPs don't have so much competition.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    It seems that at least part of the criticism we are seeing results from dissatisfaction as to what an MP is expected to do. Perhaps that could be addressed elsewhere, outside of the MMP review.

    The question of local representation vs. Ministers focusing on their ministerial duties is an interesting one. Perhaps we allow for Ministers to be appointed from outside of Parliament, like other countries do (either direct appointments, or appointment to an upper house, then to cabinet?). This may increase the talent pool, while reducing the chance that all MPs toe the party line due to a reasonable expectation of being rewarded with some form of office. I suspect though that most of us would baulk at that as we value the potential accountability that an elected MP Minister has (even if theoretical).

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 897 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Perhaps we allow for Ministers to be appointed from outside of Parliament

    Not very successfully in the UK. At best they struggled with the very different environment of being a politician (without having gone through an apprenticeship of being a candidate and backbencher). At worst they were utterly corrupt criminals, who didn't even bother becoming tax resident in the nation they governed.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4484 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    If we want the best candidates available for our electorates, and the best candidates available for our party lists, those same people need to be on both bits of paper. It's just that simple.

    Since Nov 2006 • 484 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Oh certainly, it doesn't guarantee quality.

    I would prefer the other option of a Upper House that is a combination of a panel of experts and people with proven track records in whatever their field of interest is, to act as a house of review (rather than with say legislative power), but I don't think that would ever fly in NZ, as we tend to have a strong aversion to the size of parliament being increased.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 897 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ben Austin,

    Personally, I think I'd rather have people I can vote against making legislative decisions (and review *is* legislative power - if a future government wants to tax the rich, I'm sure an upper house full of well paid notables would be keen to 'review' that away).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4484 posts Report Reply

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