Thursday, August 21, 2008

MMP and representation

In an editorial this morning praising the diversity of National's list, the Herald makes the following rather astounding claim:

[Pansy Wong] has been almost a solitary Asian voice in Parliament, for Labour has supplied only the Pakistani Ashraf Choudhary, who has been practically silent, and the smaller parties have offered no seats to non-Maori minorities. MMP's list system was supposed to improve the representation of women, Maori and immigrants but has not really done so.
(Emphasis added)

Really? Here's the data on women's representation in the New Zealand parliament, from the Social Report 2007, expressed as a percentage of total seats (a full list of all past women MPs is here):

The Herald attributes the rise in female representation to "Labour Party selection policies that were in train before MMP and would have continued without it". But as we can see, the list has been an essential part of the story. The necessity to compete for the party vote nationally produces pressure on parties to appeal to women - exactly as the Royal Commission suggested.

As for Maori, here's the same chart, derived from the Electoral Commission (post 1993) and Wikipedia's archive of New Zealand Parliaments (1984 - 1990):


I may have missed an MP in the early years, but the picture is pretty clear: MMP has played a key role in increasing Maori representation (as for the Herald's claim that its all down to the Maori seats, "which are not a product of MMP", they need a history lesson: the reform which allowed the number of Maori seats to rise to match the Maori electoral population was a key part of MMP).

For "Asians" (a horrifically broad term) and Pacific Peoples, I think the Electoral Commission's data speaks for itself: MMP has played a significant role here as well, particularly with the latter, though both communities are still under-represented (a flaw which National's list perpetuates, I might add). Basically they're talking shit. When it comes to our electoral system, it would be nice if our self-proclaimed "newspaper of record" bothered to check its facts before mouthing off.