Former Finance Minister Ruth Richardson says the question voters need to be asking about the electoral system is: will it produce a government capable of governing?
Primacy must be accorded to the ability to form an effective government and to be rid of that government if it is judged by the electorate to have failed in that quest.
MMP rarely delivers that. The most popular party will almost always be beholden to one or more of the wee ones for a majority and MPs an electorate gets rid of can return to parliament on their party’s list.
The awful truth is that MMP has condemned New Zealand to a regime where party and brand count for more than policy and a plan.
This regime has tended to produce craven politicians who judge it in their best interest to tow the party hierarchy line and has certainly corroded the quality of decision making as first-best policy is sacrificed to a lowest common denominator bargain.
The last thing a country needs in a global financial crisis is a government crippled by indecision and inaction; where the daily hand is forced by counting political not financial numbers.
While it is possible for a party to have an outright majority under MMP, it is very unlikely and the need for post-election wheeling and dealing has been very costly.
The jury is no longer out on the MMP experiment; the verdict is in and the evidence shows that coalition building has fuelled a rise in public expenditure and a drop in the quality of public policy leadership.
Ms Richardson goes on to quote Edmund Burke who said that:
“your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Under MMP, MPs have to sacrifice their judgement not only to the opinions of the people they represent but to those of their coalition partners.
One of the reasons a slim majority of people voted for MMP in the first place was that they were sick of MPs implementing radical policy without a mandate.
Ironically that is even more likely under MMP because a lack of a strong party in the centre means the bigger parties are pulled towards more radical policies by the need to appease coalition partners.
That almost always means acting in the interest of small minorities at the expense of the public interest.