Wednesday, 1 December 2010

campaigning for MMP

i attended a meeting in hamilton this evening, which was to start some movement on the campaign to keep MMP. it's a crucial issue in terms of keeping the type of diverse representation we currently have in parliament. all the alternatives to MMP that will be included in the vote at the next election are less proportional than MMP.

some key points bought up at the meeting:

- while there are issues with MMP, it's possible (in fact desirable) for us to tweak the MMP system in order to sort those out. some examples are fixing the anomaly that saw rodney hide bring in 4 other MPs when his party had a lower level of the vote than NZ first; or creating more transparency around the list selection process for all parties.

- more education is required about the role of list MPs, who are working for constituents & are democratically elected. jeannette fitzsimmons gave a good response to this issue. she said when people questioned whether or not she had been properly elected, she said that as an MP for the coromandel electorate she had received 13,000 votes. but as a list candidate, she had received around 150,000 votes for a list with her name at the top. the latter was just as legitimate as the former, possibly more so. also, list MPs are valuable for those constituents who believe that their local MP is not adequately representing their views (eg not pushing for increased access to early childhood education). list MPs provide alternative representation for these people. because of this, they also ensure that electorate MPs provide a better service.

- women's representation in parliament went up markedly as a result of MMP (from 21% to 33%) as did representation for ethnic minorities. diversity in representation actually leads to better decision-making, because it ensures different types of issues are put on the agenda & different perspectives are brought to the table. also, having minority parties in parliament ensures that debates aren't just "for or against", but have a greater depth and breadth of coverage.

- a proper proportional system will mean that every vote counts. unlike FPP, where votes in safe seats don't count for much. any attempt to reduce proportionality will reduce the value of some people's votes.

it was a good meeting with a lot of positive interest. the campaign for MMP has a website with suggestions for positive action. they could definitely use donations, as those opposed to MMP will have some very big funders. if you have the time & energy, i hope you'll be able to contribute to the campaign.


Katherine said...

What I'd like to know is whether there is a significant number of people who will be voting for FPP. I'd prefer a type of STV over MMP, but not the type that we have the option to vote for.

stargazer said...

i don't think FPP is one of the options. the other options are proportional systems in name, but offer a much lower degree of proportionality. the example that jeannette gave was that under SMP, a party could win 12% of the party vote but would only get 3% of the seats in parliament.

DPF:TLDR said...

I'd argue that SMP is basically FPP with a veneer of proportionality. Nigel Roberts and Stephen Levine did an exercise where they ran the last five elections through an SMP mechanic and four out of five times they resulted in a single party majority government - exactly what MMP is designed to deliver. Nobody really advocates SMP on its own merits, it's basically just an idea promoted by people who want FPP but are willing to dress it up with a veneer of proportionality.*

I think the biggest problem with MMP is that there seems to be a culture in parliament whereby electorate MPs are seen as having higher status than list MPs. This has been illustrated quite neatly lately by the way sitting list MPs try to get elected to electorates. I would say this is a hangover from pre-MMP days that will go away as the political culture shifts, but it actually seems more pronounced now than it did in the mid 90s. A friend of mine did a study of incoming MPs and found that even first time list MPs expressed a strong desire to get an electorate seat if they could.

*Of course Levine and Roberts accept this exercise is problematic because campaigning in an SMP election would have been different to an MMP election and might have resulted in a wider vote spread. But if anything I think campaigning would exacerbate their finding.

moz said...

Katherine, have you participated in an election using STV at a national or state level? I've just campaigned in the Victorian state election (in Oz) and it's shameful how few people understand how their electoral system works. Having voted and campaigned a few times using STV I have decided that it's cunningly designed as a FPP system that appeals to voting geeks. Normally they're the people that dominate the debate about how to fix the system, but for them STV feels good so they're less inclined to complain.
If you're interested in politics and willing to put some effort into learning how it works, then more effort into researching for each election so you can make an informed ranking of the candidates it's brilliant. You get to express your feelings in some detail and it feels very fulfilling.
Unfortunately it's not a reliable voting system - the exact order that votes are counted and preferences allocated makes a difference, and about 20% of the time is the deciding factor in who gets elected. There's research being published here right now into this effect. One really visible consequence of this is the strange candidates who get into the senate in Australia - often there's someone with a 1% primary vote elected despite other candidates having more than 5% and not getting in.
The Victorian result, incidentally, is rubbish - a party with about 7% of the vote got 10% of the seats, one with 10% got none. Hardly representative.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stargazer, FPP is one of the options in Part B of the referendum ballot paper the other options are PV (preferential vote, the Australian Fed lower house), STV and SM (supplementary member). Three of these options are non-porportional and STV is not designed to give a porportional outcame. The conditions for a proportional STV are large multimember electorates. So for example there would be 3or 4 electorates in the S. Island unlike the current 16