New Zealand’s Electoral Referendum Bill now calls for a review of the current Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) system, if it wins a majority at the referendum next year, NZ Herald reports.
If a majority vote to change MMP, the current system would be pitted against the most popular of various alternatives that will also be on the ballot at the referendum.
Labour and the Greens have pledged to fight to have MMP reviewed regardless of the referendum result, which would mean that a referendum in 2014 would pit a potentially improved MMP – rather than the present system – against an alternative.
Of course, Labour and Greens are the opposition parties, so apparently they are going to lose that battle.
Topics of review, should MMP be retained, would include the threshold. Currently it is 5% of the party-list vote or one district win. In the last election, the New Zealand First party won 4.1% of the list votes but no seats, while the Act Party won 3.7% of the list votes and 5 seats, thanks to winning in the district of Epsom.
Also to be reviewed would be the question of whether a member who is defeated in a district race should be able to win via the party list, as is currently the case–not only in NZ, but in almost all mixed-member systems. (This is an issue we have discussed at F&V before; I argue that allowing such dual candidacy is a logically necessary feature of the system, but there are ways to make it less troublesome for those who find it to be a problem.)
I have to correct the NZ Herald a bit. It notes that one of the alternative systems to be considered is a “Supplementary Member” system, which would have a 90/30 split of members elected from the two tiers: districts with first-past-the-post and PR via party lists. “This would be less proportional than MMP, which has a 70/50 split,” the article says. Indeed, but the more fundamental reason for reduced proportionality is that the list seats would not be compensatory, as they are in MMP. The Supplementary Member is MMM, or mixed-member majoritarian (also known as a “parallel” system), which is less proportional–far less–then MMP, even for a constant ratio of plurality and PR seats.
The article also notes that there will be campaign spending limits on the referendum.
ADDENDUM: Wilf notes in a comment an important detail left out by the Herald. The review will include a consideration of open (or perhaps ‘flexible’) lists. That’s a pretty big change to result potentially from a “YES” vote on the current system!