No systemic failure–so why change?

Today’s New Zealand Herald has an editorial in favor of a vote to keep the current electoral system in Saturday’s referendum. The key point:

Change would be justified only if MMP had failed to produce governments that voters recognised as an expression of their collective will.

That is a good summary of the argument I have made in published work about “systemic failure” as a precondition for electoral-system change. For a proportional system to have “failed” by objective criteria, it would need to be seen to have prevented the formation of governments that were an expression of collective preferences of the majority. It can happen with proportional systems, but has not in New Zealand–at least not outside of the first MMP election in 1996. As the editorial also notes, “Fears that the minor-party tail would wag the dog have proved largely unfounded.”

As for the second question on the referendum–the choice among possible replacement systems–Scoop published a story with a graphic showing several polling results over time. No system other than the old FPTP (or FPP), which New Zealand abandoned with the two-stage referendum of 1992-93, has made any traction. ((The story also has a link to an Excel spreadsheet with the polling data.))

Referendum Part B polling

Single transferable vote (STV) looks like a clear second choice, but has never polled above 20%, while neither of the other options, “PV” (really the alternative vote/instant runoff) or “SM” (really MMM, the non-compenstory mixed-member variant), has cracked 10%. I commented before on why SM (MMM) is the solution to a problem New Zealand does not actually have, even if anti-MMP campaigners are trying to sell it as a “compromise” between MMP (which they don’t like) and FPTP (which they presume could not defeat MMP in the one-on-one referendum that would follow in three years if a majority votes Saturday for “change”).

3 thoughts on “No systemic failure–so why change?

  1. Note that the Horizon ‘poll’ uses a different method to the others, and their election ‘polling’ was laughably incorrect
    (which didn’t stop some media reporting on it when it let them generate a shocking headline).

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