Friday, October 17, 2008

Not just the Maori seats

Peter Dunne has launched an attack on the Maori seats today, saying that they "distort democracy" and "pervert the will of the voters". Unlike Rodney Hide, he is at least making principled arguments based on proportionality, rather than simply appealing to naked racism. At the same time, it has to be asked: why is he only talking about the Maori seats? Under MMP, any electorate can lead to an overhang. And yet the only time anyone ever mentions the word is when it relates to Maori representation.

Obviously, a big reason for that is that they currently enjoy a one-seat overhang in the House, and that that overhang looks set to continue. But they're not the only ones. It's a delicious irony that on current polling, Peter Dunne - the man complaining about other people's overhangs - would in fact be occupying an overhang seat himself (as would Jim Anderton). This is as much a distortion of democracy as the Maori Party's predicted overhang - but strangely, I don't see anyone complaining about it. Is it because they're white?

Dunne's hypocrisy aside, I agree with the goal of eliminating overhangs to ensure proportionality. But the way to do this is by eliminating electorates entirely, and moving to a list-only proportional system with no threshold, as seen in most of Europe. If people are unwilling to accept that, they have no basis to complain. Overhangs are the price we pay for retaining traditional geographic representation in a proportional system. If you want that style of representation, you have to accept the consequences. And you can't complain about simply because you don't like he people who are benefiting from it this election.