Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Time to ditch the threshold

Over on Stuff, Michael Wright argues that its time to ditch MMP's 5% threshold. But not just for the obvious democratic reasons of making every vote count equally - they also think it would lead to more stable government and a better allocation of power:

The threshold exists to ensure the right mix of stability and proportionality in government. Right now it is providing neither of those things. After last month's election, Parliament is home to four political parties and the rump of a fifth – the lowest-ever total under MMP – and one of those parties is wielding a decidedly disproportionate amount of power.


Which brings us to the second advantage. More smaller parties in Parliament means less chance of one of them holding all the cards after election day, which is exactly what has just happened to New Zealand First. The only reason Winston Peters was able to so cantankerously grandstand at a press conference last week was because National and Labour need him a lot more than he needs them. He is their only realistic option to form the next Government. Greater plurality would help avoid this.

And they're right. More parties means more possible ways of reaching 61 votes, which reduces the necessity and power of any one group. We had a perfect example of this during the 2002-2005 term of Parliament, where the Labour-Progressive government had three possible majorities available to it: with United Future, with New Zealand First, or with the Greens. The three parties effectively acted as a check and balance on each other, preventing either from making excessive demands. And its been a similar situation during National's term, with National being able to turn to either ACT and United Future, or the Maori Party. If you're upset about Winston Peters having "all" the power (or rather, as much as the other parties give him), then the answer is to eliminate the threshold.