Fair’s not fair with MMP

Proponents of MMP like to say it’s the fairest system because every vote counts.

The results contradict that.

National supporters whose votes allowed Peter Dunne into three successive Labour-led governments show that under MMP your vote can count for the opposite of what you intend.

People who voted for New Zealand First to get a Labour-led government in 1996 would be equally unhappy and the greater lack of unfairness is that MMP can allow the leader of a minor party to determine the government.

David Farrar points out in his Herald column that Winston Peters could get to choose the next Prime Minister.:

 If NZ First makes five per cent, then there is a reasonable chance Peters will hold the balance of power. His caucus will defer to him absolutely. . .

. . . if he holds the balance of power in 2011, make no mistake he will choose Phil Goff over John Key, and there will be a Government that can only pass a law if it can get the Greens, Winston, Hone, and the Maori Party to all agree to it.

The parliament might reflect how people some vote but I doubt that many would call the outcome for government fair.

He has not pledged to allow the largest party to govern. He has merely said they should be able to first try and form a Government. That may mean he’ll talk to them for ten minutes before he picks up the phone and makes Phil Goff Prime Minister.

Many New Zealanders, unaware of how MMP works in practice, will be shocked. They’ll say how can the guy who leads his party to a massive defeat, getting (for example) 6% less support than they got when thrown out in 2008, end up Prime Minister?

But this is a design feature of MMP, not a defect. MMP will more often than not require minor parties to decide after the election who will be Prime Minister. Sometimes their preferences will be known before the election, sometimes they will not be.

John Key and National have been up-front about coalition partners and have categorically ruled out Peters. Phil Goff and Labour have ruled out Hone Harawira and Mana but are saying maybe to Peters and New Zealand First.

Peters in his usual Humpty Dumpty manner has said something that will mean whatever he wishes it to should he be in a position to use the election results to his advantage.

What’s fairer, stating your intentions so voters are clear what they’re voting for before the election or waiting to do covert deals afterwards and leaving voters to find their votes have counted for something they don’t want?

What’s fairer, a system which gives power to the people or hands it to an individual?

MMP is perfect for demagogues such as Peters. He selects who will be on his party list, and they become MPs based on his personal popularity, despite the fact 99% of New Zealanders could not tell you who the top six candidates on his list are. Their loyalty is purely to him, not to the New Zealand public.

What’s fairer, a system that gives more power to parties or better representation for people?

MMP gives far too much power to parties, which in the case of more than one of the wee ones means the leader. That leaves people will poorer representation and that weakness is exacerbated by the geographical size of the electorates.

I wrote about that in a column for the ODT’s Paddock talk on Monday.

P.S. Motella illustrates the horror of what could happen next week.

3 Responses to Fair’s not fair with MMP

  1. Andrei says:

    I feel sick at this farce where we pretend we have a say but just give legitimacy to a bunch of mediocrities who will advance the agenda of the big city elites because that is what MMP is designed to deliver.

  2. ihstewart says:

    Ha Ha Ele, I think my party vote for Labour was a totally wasted vote at the last election. I wake up having had nightmares that I might have been responsible for Steve Chadwick or what ever her name is.

    Do I hold my nose and vote for Winston in an attempt to bring about a weakened National Government that won’t sell state assets total waste if he can’t get to 5%. Forcing your crowd to do a real deal with Dunn and the Maori party or forcing them into a supply agreement with theGreens.

  3. homepaddock says:

    IHS – voting for Winston won’t do anything to National because the party will not deal with him. All it will do is allow him to waste more taxpayers’ money.

    If you accept Labour won’t be able to govern and want to limit National’s power you’d have to vote United, Maori or Act.

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