MMP fails governance test

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.

9 Responses to MMP fails governance test

  1. Deborah says:

    We’ve had perfectly good governance under MMP. It’s just governance that Ruth Richardson doesn’t like because it doesn’t reflect her own extremist economic views.


  2. Stuart says:

    I think governments been better with more views expressed and discussed. I think the major problems with MMP are either not as bad as other systems, or not really MMPs problem. For example, why not have members of the party vote on list ranking rather than it being decided internally by the leader and such? Some parties do but why not make it a rule?


  3. Angela Hart says:

    I agree with Deborah, Ruth’s world view is so distorted I don’t recognise the New Zealand political landscape she describes.


  4. Mark Hubbard says:

    As a libertarian, this is a hard issue for me as I don’t want elections period. Still, I think I’m settling on STV for my referendum tick: main reason being, currently, it has no list MP’s.


  5. Richard says:

    Good post Ele. There must be a better system. I was a Labour supporter up until the beginning of last HC government. I became tired of the compromises and the ability of list MPs to float into cabinet with a mandate from the party and not from the people.

    National are no better. Epsom sums it up me; every thing is wrong about this cosy deal with Act including Parker,a list MP- from the south- as the Labour spoiler. One can hope that the Epsom voters demonstrate what a silly system we have.

    The two major parties seem to think voters are play things.

    Gore Vidal sums it up nicely:(mine)
    “Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without (with changeable) issues and with interchangeable candidates.”


  6. Angela Hart says:

    The country is relying on Epsom voters


  7. Don McKenzie says:

    Give us BCIR and I wouldn’t care what of the other options we had,


  8. Richardson’s view is not prefaced on her being right or left wing. The point is that MMP precludes minorities of either persuasion from taking decisive action. Had we had MMP in 1935, the First Labour Government would likely not have had the numbers to introduce the welfare state.


  9. Richard says:

    GE, you are on the button; “decisive action” is lacking under MMP and your point about the welfare state is persuasive. States sometimes need firm leadership unpalatable as it may seem at the time; MMP does not deliver.


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