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Lowering party threshold among MMP recommendations

Published: 3:59PM Monday November 05, 2012 Source: ONE News

Minority parties could find it easier to enter Parliament and "tea-cup" political deals may become a thing of the past if changes recommended by a report on the MMP voting system are implemented.

Justice Minister Judith Collins was in Parliament today to outline the recommendations from the Electoral Commission report that has been well received amongst the opposition parties.

The report, commissioned after a 2011 referendum found the majority of Kiwis want to keep the MMP system, is recommending the party vote threshold should be lowered from 5% to 4%. In the 12 year history of MMP, there have only been three instances of political parties receiving between 4% and 5% of the party vote.

"At 5%, it is higher than it needs to be to strike the right balance. It could be lowered to 4% without any risk to effectiveness or stability and this is what we recommend be done," the report said.

The report is also recommending the one electorate seat threshold should go as it causes "excessive focus to be placed on a few electorates and distorts election campaigning".

"Its effect has been to undermine the principles of fairness and equity and the primacy of the party vote in determining the overall composition of Parliament that underpin MMP."

Other changes include, abolishing the provision for overhang seats, and that Parliament consider fixing the percentage ratio of electorate to list seats at 60:40.

"The Government will now carefully consider the Commission's recommendations and will be consulting with other parties in Parliament for their views," Collins said.

Opposition parties are welcoming the recommendations as they say the current electoral system can work in favour of individual politicians, rather than in the best interests of the country.

"The review shows that it is well and truly time to ditch the so-called 'coat-tails clause' to avoid stitch-ups like the deal done over the tea cups by John Key and John Banks last election.

"That infamous moment damaged New Zealanders' confidence in MMP and we now have an opportunity to restore that trust so Kiwis can be confident," said Labour leader David Shearer.

Labour's associate justice spokesperson Lianne Dalziel said a "classic example of the unfairness" allowed in the current MMP system was in the 2008 election when then Act Leader Rodney Hide won the Epsom seat and, with only 3.6% of the party vote, brought in four Act list MPs.

"New Zealand First on the other hand won 4.1% of the party vote but did not win an electorate seat, so ended up having no MPs."

The Green Party have also welcomed the recommendations they say reflect "principles of fairness, proportionality and diversity".

"It's vital that the National Government does not allow the immediate political interests of any single party get in the way of changes that strengthen our electoral system in the long term," said Green Party electoral reform spokesperson Holly Walker.

"This isn't about the next election; it's about the next ten elections."

Almost 6,000 submissions were received during the two stages of the Electoral Commission review.

Report recommendations

  • The one electorate seat threshold for the allocation of list seats should be abolished.
  • The party vote threshold should be lowered from 5% to 4%.
  • There should be a statutory requirement for the Electoral Commission to review the operation of the 4% party vote threshold and report to the Minister of Justice for presentation to Parliament after three general elections.
  • If the one electorate seat threshold is abolished, the provision for overhang seats should be abolished.
  • Consideration should be given to fixing the ratio of electorate seats to list seats at 60:40 to help maintain the diversity of representation and proportionality in Parliament obtained through the list seats.
  • Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the selection and ranking of candidates on their party lists.
  • Political parties should be required to give a public assurance by statutory declaration that they have complied with their rules in selecting and ranking their list candidates.
  • In any dispute relating to the selection of candidates for election as members of Parliament, the version of the party's rules that should be applied is that supplied to the Commission under section 71B as at the time the dispute arose.
  • Candidates should continue to be able to stand both for an electorate seat and be on a party list at a general election.
  • List MPs should continue to be able to contest by-elections.