Friday, February 24, 2006

Against the 100 MP bill

This morning Barbara Stewart's Electoral (Reduction in Number of Members of Parliament) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot. The bill would reduce the number of MPs to 100, by amending s191 of the Electoral Act 1993 to effectively reduce the number of list MPs (interestingly, s191 seems to be the only place the size of Parliament is defined). The number of electorate seats (or rather, the mechanism for allocating them) is left unchanged, as the relevant section (s35) is entrenched and requires a 75% majority or a referendum to amend. The change would take place at the next election

Like DPF, I oppose this bill, for the simple reason that it would break MMP. Overhangs would become much more likely, and they would generally be major-party overhangs rather than the minor party overhangs we have so far experienced. For example, in the 2002 election, Labour won 45 electorate seats and 41.26% of the party vote. Under Stewart's bill, they would have received no list seats, and held 2 more seats than they were entitled to (the difference being due to the "wasted vote", those parties which failed to make the 5% threshold). And this would become increasingly common, due to both the cube rule and the fact that the number of electorate seats will continue to grow at the expense of the list.

A second reason for opposing this bill is that it would undo all the progress that has been made in reducing the power of the executive. Since the shift to MMP we've seen a growth in the power of select committees, who now actually look at legislation rather than merely rubberstamping it, and even launch their own inquiries against the wishes of the government. This is essentially a function of the size of the House - there are enough backbenchers to pay proper attention to the job - and a smaller House would mean a lot less effort in this area. And that, IMHO, would make our democracy very much the poorer.


100 seat parliament can only work if all of them were list seats with a 1% threshold, no electorate seats and no Maori seats.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 2/24/2006 12:19:00 PM

Yes, but as idiot points out, that needs a referendum. For historical reasons, the South Island has to have 16 electorates no matter what and all else proceeds from that.

So 120 MPs is about the practical minimum. Personally, for the reasons I outline elsewhere, I think we should have 200 or so MPs.

There is so much stupidity about this whole area though. The cost of parliament (less than $100 million) is tiny in relation to overall public expenditure, yet people resent it and think reducing it would somehow help them pay less tax/get better services. There is also a misconceived perception that electorate MPs somehow have a stronger mandate than list MPs.

Posted by Rich : 2/24/2006 02:24:00 PM

Those in favour of replacing ("bloody") MMP with FPP think that with electorate voting they are voting for people rather than parties. They don't seem to realise that these electoral candidates must tow the party line because there aren't independent elections for the legislative and executive branches.

People do base their party votes on the quality of the list MPs. Many voters choose not to vote Green because of Nandor.

The main problem with MMP is the uncertainty of coalitions. NZ First lost several seats in the last election but gained far more power. I think MMP is good for electing a legislative branch but not for an executive branch.

STV/Condorcet voting eliminates the problem of vote splitting. Vote splitting is the reason why people tend to vote for the lesser of two evils rather than the party that represents them the most. I think Condorcet voting should be used for the electing of the executive branch.

United Future's and NZ First's policy of joining up with the party with the most seats (rather than the largest block) is the reason why all small parties (except Maori) lost out. They ruined the proportional representation that MMP offers.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/27/2006 12:32:00 PM