The Electoral Finance Act has rightly received much of the blame for a dull campaign but Muriel Newman also points the finger at MMP:
The MMP system itself is also responsible for emasculating the campaign. Parties have turned a blind eye to the radical policies being promoted by some, lest they offend those who may become bedfellows after the election. As a result, policies are not being exposed to public scrutiny and the radical agendas of some parties are largely unknown to voters.
MMP also threatens good government and the democratic process by allowing minor parties to exert influence far beyond their electoral support. This is particularly true of the Maori party which only attracts the support of mainly activist Maori (about 2 percent of the population) yet is likely to win around 5 percent of the seats in Parliament through the racially based Maori seats.
. . . Former Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore puts it this way: “No major party dare question the Maori party because they know they will have to do a deal, best save that until later. But what some Maori party leaders have said should be reason for some tough media questions. For example, when a leader says they want equal representation in a government because it’s not about numbers, it’s a partnership, what does that mean? Sorry, democracy is about numbers.
One of the strengths of the adversarial nature of parliament is the scrutiny opposing parties subject each other to. However attacks are sometimes blunted under MMP because MPs know their party might need the support of other parties and therefore they pull their punches.
At best this means policies and actions don’t get the rigorous examination they ought to have. At worst it could allow corruption to go unchecked and we had an indication of how that might happen in Labour’s refusal to accept the Privileges Committee censure motion of Winston Peters.