MMP weekend: Germany and New Zealand 2017

We are entering days of convergences. Over the next two days, the Jewish and Islamic new years and the first day of Autumn coincide. Then, on the weekend, we have the convergence of elections in the two countries that offer our best examples of mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation electoral systems: Germany and New Zealand. (Lest I be accused of hemispherism, let me hasten to note that in one of those countries, the election will be the day after the start of spring.)

In the case of Germany, which votes Sunday, there really has been no doubt for some time that the CDU/CSU alliance would place first, but it will be down from its 2013 result. There is also little doubt that the two parties that missed the 5% party-vote threshold in 2013 will clear it this time: the center-right FDP and the far-right AfD. The SPD, which briefly flirted with the lead in the polls some months after changing its leadership, looks like it may struggle to break 25% of the vote. The real question is what the coalition will be, after the election results are known.

I would expect the SPD to want a period of opposition to recollect itself after what looks sure to be another disappointing result for the party. Thus it may not be willing to renew the current CDU/CSU+SPD big coalition (what we should stop calling a grand coalition; my more direct translation of the German term is more apt). If the FDP has enough seats to combine with the CDU/CSU, we might see a return to the center-right combo that governed from 2009 to 2013, as well as in many past terms. There is just enough error in the projections from polling to allow for the possibility that this could be a viable combine. (Mouse over the numbers in the table at that link for the range of vote and seat projections for each party.)

However, the most likely result seems to me to be Jamaica! I will admit to rooting for this: CDU/CSU + FDP + Green. (The name refers to the parties’ colors.)

In New Zealand, the contest for Saturday’s election is much more uncertain. For months it seemed National, which heads the current multi-party governing arrangement, was cruising to another win. Then Labour changed its leader and surged (similar to the German pattern). By a few weeks ago, the two largest parties were running neck and neck, while the Greens stumbled badly and looked at risk of failing to clear the 5% party-vote threshold. This scenario was posing a potential difficult challenge for center-left voters: Do you vote Labour to bolster its formateur status (as the largest party, although there is no formal right of first attempt to the largest in New Zealand)? Or do you vote Green to ensure there is a viable partner for Labour other than Winston Peters and his New Zealand First (NZF) party? Given that the electoral system is MMP, you can do both: vote for Labour in your district (electorate) and vote Green on the list. However, while that might be a voter’s way of making a statement of preferred coalition, only the party vote affects the overall balance of seats in parliament. (Some exceptions to that statement, as I will get to below, but none likely relevant to the Labour-Green situation discussed here.)

In recent days, some polling suggests that National might be pulling ahead again. The result could be very close, and it could be a situation in which NZF is pivotal (although that may be less likely than it seemed some weeks ago). That is, assuming NZF makes it. The party has been tending downward and is hovering near 5%, as are the Greens . Here is where the electorate (district/nominal) vote comes in. The threshold provision for a party to participate in nationwide proportional allocation is 5% of party-list votes or one electorate. (Additional MPs elected beyond the electorate candidate are what I have termed “piggyback MPs“, not to be confused with that other MMP creature, the “shadow MP“.) The Greens do not have an electorate where they are viable, but NZF does.

Peters, the NZF leader, currently holds an electorate seat, Northland, having won it in a by-election in 2015. He is the party’s candidate again for the seat. If he retains it, his party would qualify for additional list seats, even if it fell below the 5% party-vote threshold.

The other electorate contests that matter include the one in Epsom, although it is not really a contest. The seat is safe for the one Act MP, David Seymour, who is quite certain to return. It is probably not likely that the Act party vote will be sufficient to earn the party a second seat, although I saw one projection a week or so ago that suggested it was possible. Act has been a governing partner with National since 2008.

Then there is Waiariki, one of the Maori set-aside seats. (Voters who claim Maori descent can choose to vote in their special Maori electorate or in the general electorate seat in which the reside.) Te Ururoa Flavell is fighting to hold the seat, which is the only way his party will retain a presence in parliament. That is quite a change for the party, which has been a National governing partner since 2008. In the past it has won as many as five electorate seats (in 2008) and in 2014 it had sufficient party votes to win a list seat for the first time, in addition to its win in Waiariki electorate. This time, it may end up with just one seat–or zero.

One electorate we know will not matter this time is Ohariu. United Future leader Peter Dunne resigned in August, after a 33-year career as an MP. This effectively kills the party, which has been a support partner to every government, whether led by Labour or National, since 2002. Only in 2002 did the party clear the party-vote threshold, and since 2008, Dunne has been its only member.

In an interesting twist on the Ohariu story, the Greens had initially decided not to contest the seat, in order to give the Labour candidate a chance to defeat Dunne and thereby knock a National partner out of the government-formation equation. When Dunne resigned, the Greens announced a candidate for the seat. With Dunne not running, there is no scenario in which this electorate will matter for the parliamentary balance, so there was no reason for the Greens not to have “local face” on the party (even though many of its voters will split their vote and give their electorate vote to the Labour candidate anyway). Running a candidate is thus another example of what I have called green contamination.

Two MMP elections in one weekend. Now that will be something to watch!


141 thoughts on “MMP weekend: Germany and New Zealand 2017

  1. This will indeed be exciting! And in a few weeks, it’s very likely we’ll have an election in the best example of a mixed-member majoritarian system: Japan. Prime Minister Abe expected to dissolve the Diet on September 28 for new elections to take place on October 22.

  2. I’m not sure if these are the “best” examples of MMP. Of course, it depends what you’re trying to illustrate, but it seems to me that any sample of two or more MMP cases should be a bit more diverse to really show the range of possible MMP configurations – in particular, I’d want to have an example of districted MMP, while it’s also worth noting that, while NZ and Germany take different approaches to overhang (partly and fully compensated, respectively) most cases of MMP have taken a different one (fixed number of seats, with no overhang compensation). I am quibbling, of course.

    • Districted MMP is a further complication. So I don’t consider Scotland or Bolivia to be among the best examples, unless I am trying to demonstrate how complicated electoral systems can be!

      To define MMP, one presumably wants to start with the simplest, which would be New Zealand, or the longest established, which is Germany.

      Or you could understand “best” to mean “best known”, in which case I trust we’d be in agreement (though I lack data on levels of knowledge on the question, I must admit).

      • Oh, to me the “best” set of examples would be one that does the best job of representing the existing variation. If “best” is to signify some normative evaluation, I’d advocate even more strongly for districted MMP, which I think is usually better than the regular. In any case, Bolivia or Scotland’s districted MMP is certainly simpler than Germany’s model combining regional lists with nationwide allocation!

      • Perhaps one should not read too much into “best”. However, I stand by the statement, for my purposes in the post. And those purposes were not normative, but perhaps more pedagogical. As in, start simple. OK, I am repeating myself…

  3. As a German Green Party member, from the left of the party, I fear what a second period in government will do for our already-damaged credibility. I also fear it would entrench us as a Kretschmannite* centre-right party. Therefore I’m hoping we sit this one out. Alas, a Jamaica coalition does seem likeliest of all; I may resign my membership in that case and perhaps defect to Die Linke, a party with which I’m only slightly less aligned.


  4. The win for ACT in Epsom in the 2014 NZ election was thanks to engineered vote splitting by National supporters, ditto for United Future. Functionally, if not historically, ACT and UF were like micro decoy lists in that election.

  5. In the Ōhariu debate I managed to attend the Green candidate dutifully prefaced pretty much every answer with a clear reminder that he was “only here tonight to seek the party vote”. Since Peter Dunne pulled out, a point of interest (based on my vege market visits and panel attendance) seems to be the disruptive impact The Opportunities Party (TOP) might have on the Lab-Nat candidate race. TOP has been pushing hard in Ohariu and a few other electorates and seem to have a core of proselytising supporters. At the debate the tension between the Labour and TOP candidates was palpable.

  6. In the first MMP election, National and Labour between them secured 62% of the party vote. If an average of the last five polls is to be believed, this figure will reach 85% at this election. Not only is this figure the highest in the history of MMP, it is the highest figure for any election since 1987. To put this another way, I think the seat product model would predict an effective number of parties of 4.93 for New Zealand: based off those polls, this will be more like 2.62. If the UK result was good for Duverger, this is surely a rebuff to the assumption that proportional representation will always lead to fragmentation.

    • The Seat Product Model for two-tier PR (which is the most appropriate here) predicts an effective number of seat-winning parties of about 2.94. So, yes, this election will be on the low side.

      • Henry, you appear to have taken the Seat Product Model as if it assumes New Zealand has nationwide PR (120*120, to the power 1/6). But the basic tier district magnitude still matters, as first shown by Li and Shugart (Electoral Studies, 2016) and further explored and confirmed in Shugart and Taagepera (Vote from Seats, 2017, forthcoming).

        The extended SPM is: Ns=(2.5^t)*(MS)^.167, where t is the ratio of the upper tier to the total assembly size (t=.40, approx., in New Zealand as of this election).

        So the SPM correctly says that New Zealand should be much less fragmented than Israel, despite both having assemblies of 120 seats and nationwide calculation of proportionality. Israel, of course, has greatly exceeded its SPM expectation in recent elections (although over the long run, the average is about as expected), whereas New Zealand has been quite close to expectation, other than in 1996 and to a lesser degree, 2017.

  7. On overhang seats for the German Bundestag and NZ House of Representatives, how big can the respected houses can grow, what is the maximum size that these two parliaments can be with overhangs? Is there a cap on overhangs?

    • New Zealand: 240. 120 seats divided proportionally amongst parties winning at least 5% of the vote and 120 seats won by independents

      Germany: I have no idea how to calculate it. If every direct mandate is picked up by an independent (or parties winning less than 2 seats), they have 299 seats. If you have a block of seats consisting of half of the “normal” number of seats, how many would a party entitled to X% of the seats get? X% of the 299? X% of 598? Pretend the election never happened? Ask the King of the Belgians to name an informateur?

      • As there are 67 Electorate seats (60 General and 7 Maori), how do independents win 120? I might be missing something, but isn’t it 67 by independents (or parties with trivial party votes), plus 60 List MPs (from parties with 5%+)? Or is there a mechanism that allows 120 List MPs in this situation?

      • I think that in Germany, unlike other kinds of overhang, independents are just excluded so there’s no compensation. I don’t think there’s a formal limit, so the maximum number of seats could be very high indeed.

      • Oh, my bad. Yeah 67 electorates won by indepedents means a max of 187 seats

  8. Maybe we are rendering MMP wrong, as a combination of a Single Member Plurality system blended with a closed national as in NZ or closed regional list Germany system MMP is not a parallel system, MMP should be treated as a List proportionate system with the Single Member District as a party list of one. Does Germany have by elections for it’s single member district plurality members like NZ does? Isn’t an independent candidate a one person party?

    Are overhangs less likely to happen with a one vote MMP system?

    I know I have mentioned it before, Hungary use to have a 2 round system for it’s Single Member plurality for it’s old before 2010 MMM system with partial proportionality, couldn’t a 2 round system work for MMP? It may be wise to use the French system for the Single Member districts, but it would be kind of cool that the first round had parties below 5% not to be in the second round, assuming this was a two vote system. It would be odd that it were a one vote system where the second round is more important, a 2 round MMP system where the first round is the election for the single member districts, and the second round is for the list candidates, but then it may be easier for parties and candidates to have decoy lists, and that might cause more overhangs.

  9. Mark and Errol – I have heard 800 seats suggested a maximum size for the Bundestag, but can find no legal basis for this. The Australian broadcaster Antony Green appears to confirm here that the NZ Parliament can expand to 240 members, but again cites no relevant legislation:

    Rob – The experience of one-vote MMP in Baden-Württemberg shows that overhang seats are not any less likely to occur under that system.
    Germany does not ordinarily hold by-elections, except countermanded elections where a candidate has died during the campaign. These must be held within 6 weeks of the general election date. In theory a by-election would have to be held if an independent MP died or resigned too.

    • Eventually I remembered that the NZ Electoral Commission has a MMP Seat allocation calculator.
      Assign all 71 Electoral Seats (64 general and 7 Maori, I forgot that more general Seats have been added) to a random party, and split 100% of the Party vote to other parties, and the result is 120 List MPs (plus 71 Electorate MPs).
      See Section 191 of the Electoral Act 1993

      • Thanks for that. So, we know the correct maximum for NZ is in fact (currently) 191 MPs, and this is actually enshrined in statute. Good to know!

      • Errol, this is not possible – see subsection (8) of section 191. Under your scenario, only 49 seats (based on the highest 49 quotients) would be allocated in accordance with section 192, not 120.

      • The NZ parliament has 120 seats, comprising 71 single-member Electorate seats and 49 List seats. There have been occasions where there has been one overhang seat, and, in 2008, two. (See

        It would be quite remarkable were an election outcome to result in more than 3 overhang seats. It would also be a jolly nuisance, as the Chamber only has seating for 123 members.

      • (Is there a way to edit replies?)

        A thought experiement: a party wins all 299 direct mandates but secures only 5% of the national vote. 19 other parties equally share the remaining 95% of the vote. Does not the system require 5,980 seats to ensure proportionality? Or am I missing something?

      • As I said, it’s just a number I’ve seen banded about in discussions of the German electoral system and isn’t based on any calculation. You way well be right that the mathematical maximum is closer to 6,000 seats. If a German government tried to limit it to 800 members, I suspect that would be struck down by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe… albeit anything higher than 800 would require a freak set of results.

      • I thought there is in theory no limit to how big the Bundestag can expand. That party that wins all 299 direct mandates could win an arbitrarily low number of second votes. If it wins 1 second vote, then the Bundestag will be forced to expand to 299*(v+1) members, where v is the total number of second votes cast obtained by all parties that cross the threshold, in this election 47 million.

  10. With about 95% of the votes counted, National has probably won 58 seats. Labour has 45, New Zealand First 9, the Greens 7 and ACT 1 (Epsom, which does not appear to be an overhang). The result puts National comfortably in the lead, but with the Maori Party losing their electorates and United Future performing derisively without Peter Dunne the existing government is short of a majority, meaning that a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition is possible (but with a tiny majority, which given the unpredictable nature of some NZ First MPs in the past could prove a problem).

    • Wait till the specials are counted, and the result may change by one seat, so it looks as if the second largest party could form government. Is NZ going Scandinavian or British Colombian?

      • Specials are 15% of vote total, overview at
        “Special votes include overseas votes, postal votes for people both in New Zealand and abroad who could not make it to a polling booth, and dictation votes, which are available to people with disabilities.
        This election they also include advance voters who enrolled as they voted in the two weeks before election day on September 23.”
        Official results expected 2pm on Saturday, October 7.

  11. In Germany, although results may be one or two seats different, the shape is clear: the FDP, having come back into the Bundestag, holds the balance of power. What can they do with it? With the CDU they hold only about 332 seats of 690; their government would be hostage to the AfD. Anathema to their liberal voters (the FDP are commonly termed the Liberals). With the three parties of the left they would hold about 358 seats, a majority. But isn’t that equally unthinkable? Maybe not, for those who have watched Borgen, as everyone in Europe has. We’ve seen this movie before: the liberals hold exploratory talks with the three left parties, and reach tentative agreement on the fundamentals of a common program and a three-party coalition supported from the outside by the Left Party. The SPD assumes Shulz is the Prime Minister. The FDP calls a meeting of the partners and Christian Lindner announces: “I’m afraid our party has decided we cannot support Shulz as Prime Minister. We have another candidate to propose: me.” The alternative is a FDP/CDU government. That, of course, is precisely how Birgitte Nyborg became Danish PM in Borgen. Amazing what you can do with the balance of power if you have the balls, which no one knew she did.

    The alternative is a “Jamaica” coalition, from the colours of the Jamaican flag: black (CDU), green, and yellow (FDP). But why would the Greens agree? Unless they are that desperate for cabinet seats. Especially if Christian Lindner gives them an alternative.

    • The idea that the successor party to the East German Socialist Unity Party would support in any way a government led by Christian Lindner seems a tad far-fetched, even assuming the Social Democrats would be willing to work with them at the federal level (which I believe they have a policy of not doing).

      • Perhaps it is far-fetched, but the Left Party has been very critical of the SPD in those states where it has refused to work with them. They want left unity. If the only unity available is centre-left, will they refuse? Maybe. Maybe not.

      • FDP simply do NOT have the balance of power. To have the balance of power, a party must be placed to combine with either of two opposing parties or blocs to produce a majority. Granted, SPD have ruled out another “grand” coalition with the CDU/CSU (though of course that pledge could be broken, but let’s say it’s binding) – so the ‘opposed’ criterion is fulfiled. Yes, the ‘combined left’ would, with the FDP, make a majority – but the SPD, Greens and Linke in no way form a formal or even an informal bloc. Which means not one of them can even remotely be assumed to agree to even hold talks over such a cabinet, even if both the others agree unconditionally to support it. But EVEN if we grant the ‘combined left’ bloc status, even though that’s absurd, FDP doesn’t have the numbers to give Merkel a majority! So FDP, while undoubtedly an important player in the negotiations to come, certainly does not hold the balance of power.

        But let’s imagine our situation was simpler and the FDP indeed did hold the balance of power. Could they deliver the Chancellor? It’s certainly not completely impossible, but it would be completely unprecedented in Germany, and especially in light of their relative numbers it would surely strike almost any politics-observing German as completely absurd. Even in countries where govt coalitions have existed where it was not the largest coalition party which delivered the PM (e.g. Norway or Denmark), that 2nd party was not that far behind the first. Indeed, that was the situation in the series Borgen. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is The Netherlands, where at least one PM of a confessional-dominated cabinet was from a party other than the KVP – but in that case, the three confessional parties were about as close as the CDU and CSU – more than simply a bloc, parties so close they were almost factions of a single party, and indeed they ended up merging into a single party in 1980. In that context a 2nd or even 3rd coalition party PM makes sense, just as a PM from the 2nd biggest faction every once in a while is not too strange. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, I think CDU-CSU considered or even had a CSU chancellor-candidate at one point. Neither of these conditions hold or have ever held in Germany for the FDP. Which makes the fact that they never held the chancellorship – even in the long years when they really DID hold the balance of power – rather unsurprising. Lastly, I would note that even if it were more plausible or precedented, it would be strange for the FDP, which was punished so severely for the ’09-’13 government in which it was merely a *junior* partner, to seek a position in the new government which would make the electorate hold it even more strongly responsible for the government’s policies, especially since it would without a doubt have to compromise an immense amount to enter the government in the first place (especially with the parties of the left – especially to be given the head of government position instead of it going to the largest party.

      • Were Borgen made in the Netherlands, instead of Denmark, the entire first season, not the first 2 episodes, would have been about the government formation.

    • Lindner has posted on his Facebook page: “People have not elected us as a thank you, but from the wish that something will change.” And “Without a Liberal platform we will not enter a coalition.”

  12. The question of overhangs has become particularly pertinent in this election, as the new procedure for distributing all seats around overhangs to ensure overall proportionality has led to an increase in the size of the Bundestag from 598 seats (the minimum size) to 709. Part of the overhang comes from the fact that the CDU/CSU vote share dropped by eight percentage points, but the alliance only lost five constituencies. Under the old system, this would have given them a substantial overhang, but now that overhang has to be compensated to make sure the result is proportional overall.

    This could create problems later on if German politics continues to fragment. The system of overall compensation gives parties few incentives for seeking constituency votes separately, making the constituency vote even more fragmented (at this election, the highest vote for a constituency candidate was just 57.7%) and making constituency results grossly unrepresentative of the party vote.

  13. Of course, if Germany used single member district plurality the campaigns and party alignments would be different. Still, what happened with the district results is a good argument for proportional representation.

    If the district vote was replicated for a single member plurality election, the CDU would have won a comfortable majority (about 60% of the seats) on 30% of the popular vote. Combine the CDU and CSU and they get to 37% of the vote, but a supermajority of over two thirds of the seats. The Conservatives won a majority in the UK in 2015 on about 38% of the vote, but it was a not much of a majority..

    I am wondering what was going on in that part of Saxony near the Polish border.

    • It’s mainly an argument against First-Past-the-Post. The result would probably have been a great deal more reasonable under AV, as the division in the left would not have been so consequential. Which is perhaps also an argument for AV under MMP, as there would probably not be quite as much overhang.

  14. If the operating assumptions are that no one wants the Left and Afd in a coalition, and that the Social Democrats have to leave the government ot hang on to their dwindling support, then it has to be CDU/ CSU – FDP -Grunen. That is the only possible arrangements.

    The outgoing government of the CDU and SPD lost something like 10% of the vote and didn’t clear 50% by much, which I think is a postwar low for the combined vote of the two parties.

    • CDU/CSU have had their worst score since 1949, the Federal Republic’s very first election (where the party system had not yet quite crystallised), while it’s the SPD’s worst score since 1933.

  15. Wow, look at this from the Guardian;

    From Wikipedia;,_2017

    For the direct seat mandate or single member district plurality component for the smaller parties; The AfD won 3 seats in Saxony, that is amazing, this is nothing short of an earthquake; The Left wins 5 seats, the Greens win 1 seat, funny that the Free Democrats win no seats, the CDU wins 185 seats, CSU wins 46 seats (they win no list seats), and the SPD wins 59 seats. Funny that the Union parties win almost all of the single member district seats, surprisingly that it is rare to find candidates that win 50% of the vote in the direct mandate seats. I don’t think this is the case in NZ with the National and Labor party. National won 41, Labour won 29, and Act won 1 electorate seats, that is a much closer ratio than the CDU/CSU vs the SPD in Germany.

    I wonder how Merkel is going to form a government in all of this, is this a return to Weimar of sorts? I think the Germans should be more open to minority government, perhaps a CDU/CSU-FDP minority coalition supported by the SPD could work. Someday in the future, the CSU/CSU is going

    I see problems with MMP in that a country that has a fragmented regional party system for the single member districts causing lots of overhangs.

    Why does Germany use regional lists for the 16 Lander, wouldn’t it be easier and be more proportionate to use 1 single national list and would that be less likely to cause overhangs? Isn’t it unfair that some Lander because of overhangs get more seats than those that don’t have overhangs? Or am I wrong about the way the German MMP system works? NZ MMP system is so much easier.

    • 1 single national list of hundreds of candidates for a country of 82 million would be downright insane. However, the allocation can certainly be done on the national level. In a way, that is already done – each party’s overall number of seats is determined on the national level, and then the seat totals are allocated to the states. As I understand it (someone please correct me if I’m wrong), this is where the negative vote weight came from – by casting a list vote to a party, one could, under certain circumstances, shift a seat from one state to another with the result of turning a seat gained by overhang in that state to a seat covered by the party’s seat total in that state, thereby negating a little disproportionality which would have given that party an extra seat. The government could have solved this by calculating each party’s LIST seat total at the national level and allocating that among the states – but instead, they decided to solve it using full overhang compensation, resulting in the current mess.

  16. What would NZ and Germany’s election result would had been if there had been no electoral threshold? Would it have been easier or harder to form government with no electoral threshold in both cases? Is there a need for electoral thresholds or is district magnitude enough?

  17. The official result of the NZ election has now been released – see National are down 2 seats from election night, to 56; Labour and the Greens are up 1 seat each, to 46 and 8, respectively. NZ First remain on 9 seats.

    Winston Peters expects to make his decision as to which way he will jump, on Thursday 12 October.

    • At 56 to (effectively) 54, it seems like it may come down to who offers Winston Peters the better bribe…I mean offer.

      • Or, who gives Winston more of what he wants.

        Commentators are saying this morning (Sunday) that a full, tight, coalition agreement (such as the one National and NZ First negotiated following the 1996 (first MMP) election), cannot be negotiated in 5 days. Therefore, there is speculation that Winston will just give one side “confidence and supply”, but that NZ First will sit on the cross-benches and vote on each bill as it arises, for or against, as it takes their fancy.

        Who knows what the outcome will be. The country waits with bated breath.

  18. I’ve been thinking about government formation.

    Let’s imagine an STV assembly divided into districts with odd number magnitudes between 1 and 7.

    We have variable magnitudes for demographic and geographic reasons and an explicit prohibition on Tullymanders in the redistribution standards.

    The ballot for each district includes presidential candidates as well as the parliamentary candidates for that district.

    The ballots are counted twice.

    At the first pass all ballots from all districts are counted as though they were a single district of magnitude 1 with a quota of 1 more than half the votes. The winner of this first pass becomes head of government.

    At the second pass the ballots are counted within each district under a normal quota. Ballots cast for the elected presidential candidate are excluded and transferred to the next available preference as the first stage of the count.

    This instant honeymoon election would almost always return executives and assemblies with the same broad policies.

    There is no investiture vote or government formation at all. Early elections would be banned except in case of a vote of no confidence or an executive vacancy. You would probably need a continuing budget rule to prevent attempts at forced resignation.

    There is no sense, in an instant honeymoon election, that the government is chosen by the parties instead of the people. There can be no allegations of a corrupt bargain. Blame-shifting campaigns would become impossible or at least very difficult.

    • Alan, a quick response. In the NZ context, right now, what if the voters had elected Jacinda Ardern (the leader of the Labour Party) as president, but Winston decides on Thursday to coalesce with National?

      • There’s no occasion for Winston to do any coalescing. There is no investiture vote and a vote of no confidence merely generates a new election.

        In any case, Arden could only win the presidency by drawing enough NZ First and Green second preferences to put her ahead of English. Winston has a rep for being mercurial but he would have to be incredibly mercurial to attempt to overrule his own voters.

    • So essentially what you are proposing, Alan, is a version of the Israeli/Kiribatian ‘elected prime ministerial’ system with AV for the presidency and STV for the legislature., if I’m not too much mistaken (in practice, ‘president’ and legislature elected separately, but ‘president’ removable but not replaceable by a majority of the legislature).

      • Roughly, yes. The Israeli model failed (at least as I understand it) because they retained an investiture vote and the elected prime ministers faced the same difficulty in government formation that appointed prime ministers faced in a highly-fragmented assembly. The Bougainville autonomous government was carefully designed to avoid the problems with fragmented assemblies and government formation that have plagued PNG at the national level. Essentially I propose a variation on Bouganville where the main refinement is using a single ballot for both elections.

      • In practice, though, wouldn’t you agree that an ‘investiture vote’ doesn’t matter, given that if a majority of members want to remove the PM on day one, they can do so through an ordinary vote of no-confidence? I understand the issue with the Israeli model was encouraging voters to ‘elect’ major-party Prime Ministers while supporting minor parties for the Knesset, meaning that those major-party Prime Ministers had to work with an even more fragmented assembly.

        Your proposal wouldn’t seem to solve this issue. Despite the fused ballot, there’s no reason a voter couldn’t vote
        [1] Hillary Clinton
        [2] Marco Rubio
        [3] Donald Trump,
        for example, or even separate their rankings for the Prime Ministership and legislature entirely. I don’t claim to know a lot about the Bougainville experience, but like Kiribati, both areas use majoritarian electoral systems, and are hardly good analogues for first-world countries with existing strong party systems.

      • Henry

        I say the investiture vote, or its absence, is crucial, particularly if an investiture vote requires an absolute majority.

        I suppose one could add a grace period of 6 months but I prefer to leave these matters to the electorate. I cannot imagine people would be enthusiastic about a vote of no confidence on Day 1 and I can be reasonably confident that parties voting that way would learn to their cost that the electorate had higher expectations of them.

        In fact the chance of divergent executive and legislative majorities would be minimal. To use the recent New Zealand election as an example:

        English 44.4%
        Arden 36.9%

        English needs an extra 5.6% to win. Arden needs an extra 13.1%. To overtake English, Arden would need to secure 13.1% on second preferences from an available pool of 18.7%. That would be a big ask. English needs 1/2 of Other voters’ preferences. Arden needs more than 2/3.

      • I think it’s an overstatement to say the investiture vote was necessary and sufficient for Israel’s trouble with a directly-elected PM. It probably played a big role, but smaller parties would have had an assymetrically strong position to pressure the PM even without investiture vote, while the large parties themselves lost control over their leader when he became PM. And in a system without the investiture, you could have a very problematic divided government situation (perhaps not likely, but certainly possible).

      • The issue would still be that a voter could vote for a minor party for the legislature *and* for a major candidate for President: that 44% for English and 36% for Ardern would only translate into roughly that share of seats for each party in the legislature. The concern in Israel was not that Netanyahu might be elected Prime Minister while Labour won a majority in the Knesset, it was that Likud might win the prime ministership with a small number of seats in a fragmented Knesset, given that voters would be free to split their ballots. I don’t see how your proposal addresses that.

        I am really failing to see the practical difference to the electorate and to the opposition parties between the opposition banding together to defeat investiture of the government and calling an immediate motion of no confidence. In both cases, the opposition would, as you say, be seen as rejecting the decision of the electorate and would risk their own seats by doing so. Under your proposal, a cabinet would still be presented by the Prime Minister, and the opposition majority would have to make the same tactical decision as to whether they were willing to risk that in order to bring the government down.

    • “There is no investiture vote or government formation at all.”

      I don’t understand how this would work. If governments are not formed, then presumably a “government” cannot carry out its legislative program during any given parliamentary term. Would party whips be abolished under your suggestion? Wouldn’t it all be rather hit-and-miss – almost, if not actually, a free-for-all – with the president never knowing with any certainty whether or not legislation will be enacted?

      I need much more information.

      • By no government formation, I mean that there is no process of negotiation between the parties because the issue is decided by the electorate. Obviously the new president forms a government.

      • Got it now. Thanks, Alan.

        Unfortunately, STV to elect the NZ parliament is now a lost cause. We’re stuck with MMP well into the unforeseeable future. (My dream electoral system is STV in large multi-member electorates (between 12 and 15 seats each), with each electorate divided into 7 or 8 precincts, to allow several “local heroes”/prominent MPs, to head each of the party lists in each electorate. There would be no ATL party boxes, a unique ‘1’ would be sufficient to constitute a valid vote, and the count would be by Meek’s method – of course.)

  19. “… and a vote of no confidence merely generates a new election.” And that would be the end of that little experiment.

    “Winston has a rep for being mercurial but he would have to be incredibly mercurial to attempt to overrule his own voters.” He did it in 1996, most of whom wanted him to go with Labour. He paid the price at subsequent elections.

    • Assuming that Arden did win the first pass, although it seems to me incredibly unlikely, she would become president without an investiture vote. In theory National and NZ First could immediately force an election by voting no confidence, but what does that gain them beyond a mightily annoyed electorate? What would be their campaign slogan, ‘Get it right this time?’

  20. Who should Winston Peters form a coalition with? It seems to me that Labour and the Greens are more desperate than the Nationals. Such a menage a trois is going to be tricky, do the Greens and NZ First have anything in common as they are on opposite ends of the political continuum. In Germany, it seems like the Greens and the FDP do not want to be in the same coalition with each other.

    It also appears that NZ National could form government with the Greens if they wanted to (I wonder why they are so attached to Labour) or that they could play the Greens and NZ First off each other by doing confidence and supply agreements.

    Has anyone done a calculation NZ and German election with no threshold? Would it have been easier to form government or harder?

    • Rob, Winston hates the Greens, and National are so far away from the Greens’ policies, re. climate change, cleaning up our filthy rivers (caused by over-dairying), poverty, homelessness and too-expensive housing (particularly in Auckland), that there is no way there can be a National-Green coalition. At least not this time. Green Party supporters would regard a coalition with the Nats as a shocking betrayal, and the Greens would be tossed out in 2020.

      The Greens are left of Labour; they’re all you expect of a Green party, with social justice thrown in. Whether Winston (who is 72) is prepared to work with them this time, remains to be seen. (He will likely retire at the next election.) I predict a National-NZ First coaltion, but, quite frankly, who knows. With the special votes now counted, it really does appear to be 50/50.

      The wasted party vote was only about 4.70%. I haven’t done a no-threshold calculation, but, presumably, The Opportunities Party (TOP) (2.44%) would get a couple of seats and the Maori Party 1 seat, at the expense of National, Labour and NZF (each losing 1 seat).

      • How are the Greens left of Labour in NZ, there not a workers party or a support trade unions, there are bourgeois bohemians. I would expect more Green parties to be the right of Social Democracy, the Greens in Germany approved the Hartz IV reforms, how is it that they are Left wing? Isn’t what makes someone Left Wing that they support the working class and trade unions or that they support avant guard social liberal policies because they are too hip and modern for their own good, the bobos. The Greens drive Labour voters who are more skittish about those avant garde things toward NZ First. Do Greens only care about the environment and support whatever is natural and opposing genetically modified crops, so they would be deeply oppose to Memphis meats (lab created meat), but that is much more environmentally friendly than having animals on a farm.

      • Gee whizz, Rob, you’re a hard man. I don’t wish to argue with you about this.

        The NZ Greens are a very different beast to the German Greens. For example, no way would the NZ Greens support NZ troops going to Iraq, that sort of thing.

        To find out more about the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, go to, and Also, check out Errol’s 9.00 pm post below, re. Metiria Turei.

        Also, don’t forget the NZ Labour Party betrayed its supporters after the 1984 election, and have not yet recanted their actions. It led to the creation of The Alliance, a combination of parties, including the Greens (which grew out of the 1970s Values Party).

        I’ll leave all that with you. Feel free to educate yourself.

    • Yes, Rob, I did the calculations when you asked last time but didn’t post them, sorry. On the Kiwi provisional numbers, National could’ve had a majority by working with ACT, the Maoris and The Opportunities Party (‘TOP’) but the final numbers would essentially leave NZ First still in the position of kingmaker. If the threshold were abolished in NZ then district magnitude would not solve the problem of a fractured legislature because at the moment the ‘district’ for list seats is the whole country.

      In Germany it depends if you calculate for a strict Bundestag of 598 MPs or the 709-seat assembly they actually ended up with, but either way it still only leaves a Grand Coalition or ‘Jamaica’ alliance as the likely, realistic, stable governing options. Without the 5% hurdle, district magnitude would keep minor parties out in the less populous states (Bremen, Saarland, Hamburg etc.) but you’d get some strange results in the larger ones (BW, Bavaria, NRW etc.) with the Free Voters and Ecological Democratic Party among the main beneficiaries.

      • Yes, I suspect you’re right, Oliver. My quick calculation would give the Nats 55, TOP 2, ACT 1 and Māori 1 = 59. As you say, NZ First (8) needed, but, Winston and David (ACT) dislike each other (intensely). The day after the election, David said that, no matter what the outcome, he will be in opposition.

        In addition, Gareth (TOP) and Winston dislike each other (TOP took votes from the Greens, who Winston hates), and, Winston has no love for the Māori Party – until a week ago, he said one of his “bottom lines” was for the Māori seats to be abolished!! (Ha!! Like that’s going to happen.) So, without a threshold, we could have a Nat-NZF coalition (63 seats), or a Lab (45)-Green (8)-NZF (8) coalition (61 seats). Or, if Winston were to dig his toes in and say that he will not enter into a formal coalition with the Greens,TOP, and the Māori Party, it could be a Lab-NZF minority government, supported by a confidence-and-supply agreement with the Greens, TOP, and Māori (= a total of 64 seats).

        Rob asked, “Would it have been easier to form government or harder?” Hmm, perhaps not. But, with a lower, or no, threshold, Bill and Jacinda might have been forced to debate with the minor party leaders on the same stage, instead of just each other.

        It’s all great fun. Can’t wait for Thursday (although, given we’re dealing with Winston, a decision is by no means guaranteed).

        Also, Oliver, just quietly, in the modern world we live in, Māori are no longer referred to as “the Maoris” – haven’t been for at least 30 years. Māori language words are not pluralised by adding the English language letter ‘s’. To do so, is very un-PC.

    • The NZ Greens are sometimes referred to as ‘watermelons’ – green on the outside, red (socialist) in the middle. One of the co-leaders unashamedly admitted to benefit fraud (25 years ago) shortly before the election. The badly-received response by the party caused 2 MPs to resign, followed by the co-leader resigning.

  21. Hmm, it sounds as if a big part of NZ government formation comes down to personality clashes as much as ideology or parliamentary arithmetic.

    Steve – thanks for the note about the plural form of the autochthonous people of New Zealand. It is interesting to me as a linguist, although I’m afraid I have basically no knowledge of Australasian or Melanesian/Polynesian languages. When I wrote ‘the Maoris’ I was referring specifically to potential Māori Party MPs and not to the native people of Aotearoa as a whole. I did not wish to cause any offence.

    • No offence caused, Oliver. It’s just that when I read “the Maoris”, it really did *jar*, so I thought I’d better say something. Coincidentally, your response crossed with my additional comment. (I’m amazed that I, an ordinary bloke, tried to tell a linguist about language usage; that’s quite funny.)

      In practice, when in government, Winston has been a good operator. It’s just that “events” have overtaken him (in 1998, and 2008). And, while he dislikes the Greens and the Māori Party, and David Seymour (ACT), and Gareth Morgan (TOP), he *would* work with them if he had to. Fortunately for him, he now only has to decide what to do about the Greens.

      As far as I’m aware, NZ is the only country to willingly transition from FPP to MMP. It’s taking time, because we have to wait while prominent FPP politicians (who had their electorate seats) work their way through the system. Once Winston (and therefore NZF, often referred to as Winston First) exits parliament, the transition to MMP will be complete, and the system will hopefully operate as intended. That should be in 2020 – 2023 at the very latest.

      ACT (Epsom seat) are now irrelevant. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me, if, in 2020 (or maybe in 2023), the Nats say to David, “Sorry, mate, you’re not bringing extra MPs in on your ‘coat-tail’, so therefore we’re taking our seat back.”

      • Not to worry, Steve. I only found this site just before the most recent election, so I’m not sure how replying to individual comments works and can see how things get crossed over. (My specialism is in the comparatively mundane and bog-standard languages of western Europe and what very little I have read about languages of the Pacific and Down Under has appeared in literature on general linguistics – so, in this case I am happy to bow to your expertise.)

        I think you’re right that New Zealand is still in transition. The departure of Peter Dunne just before the election certainly appeared to have accelerated that process. Since the consensus is that NZ First is something of a one-man band, when Winston exits the scene then the only other party likely (but by no means certain) to clear the threshold will be the Greens. It would be peculiar indeed if a ‘settled’ MMP Parliament ended up with only 3 parties represented when the last FPTP Parliament had 4… and back then there were also 21 fewer MPs in total!

        For ACT, the ‘coat-tail’ theory hasn’t even worked at the past 2 elections with the leader being the sole MP… and he doesn’t hold the balance of power on his own anymore. At least, unlike the case of United Future, that seat doesn’t (yet) count as an overhang.

      • Could NZ end up being like Malta and have a two party system with Proportional Representation? Didn’t Mozambique have at one time, two parties in it’s parliament with PR. It is odd that the rest of the Western World, the party system is fragmenting, and in NZ, it is consolidating. Are Kiwis happier having PR because it keeps politicians on their toes, they can vote for a minor party if they want to, but they don’t have to, but the larger parties are more responsive to people’s needs instead of winning big majorities, they win slim majorities, so they have to be more careful.

      • Transition might be helped if the media improved. Some of the commentary on TV has been woeful and counter-productive.

      • Steve,
        1. I don’t see how Peters and NZ First are any kind of relic from the old system, certainly not in the way you described. Granted, Peters has been a politician since before the change, but he no longer holds his electorate, and has been elected as list MP a number of times now.

        2. ACT still give the National-ACT bloc an extra seat through the current arrangement. If National won that seat instead, with list votes unchanged, ACT would have one seat less but National would have the same number of seats.

      • Yes, from memory, the 120th quotient is usually about 8000. In 2014, United Future’s party vote was 5000+, so Peter Dunne’s seat was the overhang seat. This time, ACT got about 13,000 votes – not overhang territory, but not enough for a second (List) seat, either.

        Again, yes, NZ First is Winston first, last and only. When he goes, so too does NZ First. He may stand in 2020 (and then resign, say, in mid-2021), just to ensure the party remains in parliament for one more term, but it will all be to no avail. The party has only ever been a vehicle for Winston (who, make no mistake, has been, and remains, a remarkable politician), but it goes when he goes.

        Hopefully, once the shackles of FPP have finally been cast off, NZ’s MMP party system will start to develop. I look forward to a genuinely new party (such as TOP), that is not an off-shoot of an existing party, making it into parliament.

      • jd @ 1.36 a.m.

        1. Hopefully, my thoughts in response to Oliver cover off your comments about Winston.

        2. Re, ACT, you’re quite right, but the seat was “gifted” to Seymour in the expectation that he would continue to bring in several more MPs, the way Rodney Hide did. It’s not happening, and somewhere along the line, the Nats are going to say the current arrangement is not worth the bother (in my view). Being an electorate MP bestows greater mana [respect] on a candidate than does being a List MP.* How long will Paul Goldsmith (National) continue to “take one for the team” and embarrass himself by saying (at Epsom campaign meetings) “I’m only campaigning for the party vote”, just to enable David Seymour to claim the added perks and allowances of being an electorate MP (especially an out-of-Wellington electorate MP)? Time will tell, I suppose.

        * For example, back in June or July, Labour’s 7 Māori electorate MPs took themselves off the Labour List, saying, “if you want us then you have to vote for us.” But, on 1 August, when Kelvin Davis (the MP for Te Tai Tokerau) was elevated to Deputy Leader, he went back on the List. The MANA Party candidate whom he defeated in 2014, Hone Harawira, immediately started campaigning on the basis of, “vote for me, and get both of us” (because Kelvin, at No. 2 on the List, would definitely still get back in if Hone won back the seat). Suffice to say, Kelvin was having none of that.

      • I think the trend has been that parties that enter into coalitions suffer a disproportionately high cost, and that most parties have just failed to recover from the immediate damage caused by that. See the NZF/Alliance splinter parties in 1999, the Alliance in 2002, ACT in 2011, United Future from 2005 to 2014, and the Maori Party. Peters has been the exception to that rule, though, as others point out, his days are probably numbered. Barriers to entry are dramatically lower now, so it wouldn’t be difficult for a new party to enter the field, but evidently voters would be willing to punish that new party harshly if it entered government.

      • Steve, well, I would add that there have been plenty of one-man parties like NZF in PR countries, just look at the Netherlands, Poland, Israel, or Austria. And, of course, Peters founded his party in anticipation of the introduction of MMP. So I still don’t see why NZ couldn’t have such parties in the future, or (less importantly) why Peters should be seen as a FPP legacy.

      • jd @ 10.15 am on 8 October

        “So I still don’t see why NZ couldn’t have such parties in the future, or (less importantly) why Peters should be seen as a FPP legacy.”

        Fair enough, jd. Some thoughts, in response.

        Winston made his name as an FPP politician. He left National in 1992 (after falling out with prime minister Jim Bolger) and stood in his Tauranga electorate as an independent in the by-election he forced in 1993; National did not stand a candidate against him – it would have been too embarrassing. He then established NZ First in July 1993. Voters did not vote for MMP until November 1993, and it was a close-run thing, right up until election day. Had we stayed with FPP, it is extremely unlikely that any other NZ First candidate would ever have won an electorate. As a one-man party, Winston would have been like the examples you gave.

        NZ First survives, because of Winston’s charm, charisma, good looks and personality. The party’s policies appeal to older, retired Kiwis – he gave them the Supergold Card; free bus travel, etc. – and the “blue-rinse” set, in particular, adore him. Once he retires, support for NZ First will plummet and the party will follow him into political oblivion. (In my view.)

        David Seymour and ACT are different. Although he worked hard to get elected, and to hold his seat, he remains the MP for Epsom by the grace and favour of National. (He is often referred to as National’s sock-puppet, poodle, etc.) The Nats give their supporters in Epsom the nod and the wink, and they know what to do. David does not have Winston’s charm or charisma; in fact, I think he’s quite smarmy.

        I’m just saying that, at some point in the near future, the arrangement will surely come to end. Yes, it gives the NACT block an extra seat, but I wonder at what cost to National. The glory days of ACT are long gone.

        There has not been a genuine, elected, independent MP in the NZ HoR since WWII. Winston is definitely a political phenomenon, but he got his start with National. He did not start out as an independent. There will never be a one-person party in parliament, because such persons would have to win an electorate seat, which will never happen. (They would need some sort of ACT-like “sweetheart” deal, but then they wouldn’t be the sort of independent party, surviving on its own two feet, that you referred to, would they?) Those that have – Dunne, Anderton, Peters, all FPP-politician off-shoots of Labour or National – have now worked their way through the system, or soon will do. Their seats have returned to National or Labour.

        If the 5% threshold were to be abolished (giving what would be an effective threshold of 0.83%), then, yes, a small registered party could see the party leader elected to parliament. But that’s never going to happen; we’re struggling to get the threshold lowered to 4%!

        As I said previously, time will tell. I’m certainly no expert on such matters, so it might well be you who turns out to be right.

      • As I got into my reply to you jd, I forgot you had said “there have been plenty of one-man parties *like NZF* in PR countries”. We’ve had a couple here since 1993, but only NZ First has survived (for now).

        Our population is too small, and our society does not have the social/political cleavages that other societies, in Europe and eleswhere, have. Nor do we have regions, the way other countries do. So, the likelihood of another party emerging, that is held together by one personality, is not great.

        The Chairman of the 1986 Royal Commission (Judge Wallace) said some (10?) years later that, in hindsight, the RC was wrong to recommend the one-electorate seat exemption to the 5% threshold. It was copied from Germany’s three-seat exemption, but the reasons why they do it were never applicable to New Zealand.

        I say the threshold should be lowered to 2.5% (3 guaranteed seats), and for the one-seat exemption to be abolished. Three seats is enough for any new party entering parliament to provide effective representation for its supporters, and to carry out its parliamentary duties (e.g. select committees) reasonably effectively, too. But that will never happen, either.

      • One-man parties don’t need special social or geographic cleavages. The rise of the likes of Kukiz (Poland), Stronach (Austria), and Fortuyn (Netherlands) (really virtually all the examples I have in mind) have little to nothing to do with such cleavages. Plus there are the demographics you mentioned that Peters appeals to. If he can do it, it’s possible someone else will be able to do it when he’s gone, and not necessarily (probably not, as you say) from what’s left of his own party. And that there’s no potential political cleavages that could be exploited by someone (take Peters’ anti-immigrant stance, for instance), I seriously doubt. It’s entirely possible to split off a party and create a one-party fief under PR, even in small countries.

        By the way, if you remove the threshold completely, the effective threshold falls below 1/120 to approximately half that. See Lesotho or South Africa for example.

      • Yes, the way the 1, 3, 5, 7, etc., divisors work, it does work out that a party’s first seat kicks in well below 0.83%. (I wanted to reply to you, so you didn’t think I was rudely ignoring you, without bogging myself down in detail.)

        Re., your first paragraph; I’m sure you’re right, but they won’t happen in NZ, because Winston is a one-off. (By the way, he’s having a ball at the moment. He completed Monday’s talks (but not with the Greens) a little over an hour ago. All smiles on the 6 o’clock news.) His policies would more likely be pursued inside the main parties.

        “It’s entirely possible to split off a party and create a one-party fief under PR, even in small countries.” Again, I’m sure you’re right, but it’s only happened here during the transition from FPP to MMP – FPP politicians in safe (for them) electorate seats, seizing the opportunity to take advantage of MMP. That transition is nearing an end. If, say, in 2022, some Nat MP broke away and set up a new party, the Nats would put up their own electorate candidate against him, and blow him out of the water (and the new party would be stillborn). How? Because the rebel Nat will be no Winston.

        All of this is not to say that what you say could not happen here. Who knows what might happen in 20, 30, or more years time. As I keep saying, you may well yurn out to be the one who’s right.

      • Fair enough, Steve! I’m obviously no expert on the socio-political-ideological context in New Zealand, and I greatly appreciate hearing your perspective on it.

      • Thanks for that jd.

        I won’t bore readers with a running commentary, but we are now looking at Friday, even Monday, before Winston releases the decision he makes on Thursday.

        Can anyone imagine Angela Merkel putting up with this nonsense?

    • Anything to do with Winston Peters has a large element of personality! A nickname for NZ First is ‘Winston First; 🙂

      It’s a minor oddity that the Maori language has number, but Maori words adopted into NZ English effectively don’t.
      There isn’t an unambiguous short way to say ‘Maori Party MPs’. In some contexts, you might use ‘Maori MPs’ to refer to MPs for Maori Electorates, but generally you would be explicit – there were (2014) 25 MPs who identify as Maori.

      • The ‘anthropological plural’ is quite common. It is not unusual to see ‘Zulu’, ‘Inca’, ‘Maya’ and ‘Aztec’ used in English in the same way as Māori and ‘los Maya’ or ‘los Azteca’ written in Spanish. The Maya languages have a perfectly simple plural in ‘Mayab’ but you rarely see it used in English or Spanish.

      • From the Statistics New Zealand website (–

        Plurals in te reo Māori

        In Māori, the indefinite or definite article preceding a noun indicates whether it is singular or plural (eg ‘te awa’ means ‘the river’; and ‘ngā awa’ means ‘rivers’). This style applies to Māori words that appear in English text. Do not add s to Māori words in the plural.

        Use: Many Māori identified with several iwi.
        Not: Many Māoris identified with several iwis.

  22. jd

    I don’t argue that an instant honeymoon system would never produce divided government, but that it would be very rare. I think Day 1 votes of no confidence would be cosmically rare. I’d also make the point that divided government can arise in conventional parliamentary systems. Australia effectively has it now.

    Malcolm Turnbull has made a career of taking socially liberal positions, but he only has a majority of 1. His party includes a rightwing ginger group who are rather successful at extracting socially conservative pounds of flesh from him at regular intervals. In the last 3 months he has agreed to appoint one of them as home secretary with unified control of security, policing and immigration and to hold the gay marriage pseudo-plebiscite, even though he wrote and spoke quite strongly against both before becoming prime minister.

    One of the repeated critiques of proportional representation in Anglophone countries is the length of government formation and that government formation becomes the province of the parties rather than the electorate. One solution would be to give government formation tot the electorate. This could lead to the occasional example of divided government but the electorate would have the tools to hand to punish irresponsibility like Day 1 no confidence.

    • Well, I made other, more fundamental objections than the possibility of ‘divided govt’. All I’ll say about that is I recommend reading ‘Presidents, Parties & Prime Ministers’ which explains very clearly what the fundamental issues with elected PM was in Israel, which would apply even had there been no investiture. I would also say that Australia’s situation is rather different given the Senate is not a confidence chamber (you’d have a point if you replied it can deny supply, though that’s not quite equivalent) and the fact that the crossbench is so fragmented. It would be much closer if, say, the Greens held the balance of power.

      Personally, I’ve almost entirely stopped caring about government formation and PMs/govts being ‘unelected’ and decided in ‘smoky backrooms’, and I’m particularly opposed to any ‘solutions’ to this ‘problem’ which involve moving any closer to presidentialism.

      • Turnbull’s problem is not specific to the senate and exists within his own Liberal Party. He is dealing with a ginger group who are behaving more like a separate political party than anything else. I would be completely unsurprised to see an Australia First party focused on Tony Abbot in the not too distant future, although probably not before the next election.

  23. Why does the media stay when a new Prime Minister comes into office the middle of a legislative term say that they aren’t elected by the people unless they call for a snap election? Teresa May listened to some really bad advice by calling for that snap election, she wishes she could undo with a time machine. It doesn’t make any sense, a Prime Minister is not elected by the people, but usually chosen and/or formally blocked/veto by the Chief of State if and/or informally tolerated by the legislative branch or which ever comes first. This doesn’t apply to Switzerland’s executive as Legislative branches can’t dismiss the execute once elected.

  24. If Winston Peters indeed retires after this Parliament, surely his party needs to be in a coalition so that one of its senior leaders can ride a cabinet position into more prominence? Don’t Ron Mark, Tracey Martin or Fletcher Tabuteau all look possible for its second cabinet seat?

    • @Wilfred. More likely that 2 or 3 of them will get Minister-outside-Cabinet / Under-secretary positions. Winston is likely to be Deputy Prime Minister and a cabinet minsiter.

      Aparently, he will reveal his decision at 12 noon on Thursday, which is 4.00 p.m. Wednesday PDT.

      • I’ve just the 5.00 p.m. news and he is now saying that he will make his decision by midday Thursday, but may not announce it then. Typical Winston.

  25. For readers who are unaware of New Zealand’s most popular blogsite, by far, I recommend Kiwiblog (at to you. It is a centre-right blog, and the chap who runs it, David Farrar, has been doing great work since the final result was released on Saturday afternoon. David owns the National Party’s polling company, Curia.

    For those of you interested in NZ politics, the items posted over the last few days make for very informative reading. Enjoy.

    • Hate to say this but that’s going to be used as a stick to thwack the idea of proportional representation.
      It’s not anywhere near as applicable to STV-PR, since one can glean some information of what the kingmaker minor party’s voters actually want from their surplus preferences, unlike PR-list where there are no preferences and also unlike single-member AV where the preferences of minor-party or independent candidates who win district seats are never distributed among the major parties.
      Did Winston Peters give any indication during the election campaign that he was planning to back Labour this time? Did NZF’s voters give their Erstestimmer to Labour over National at the district level? or is Peters just determined to act like a character in a political sketch co-written by Monty Python and Ferdinand A Hermens?

      • “Did Winston Peters give any indication during the election campaign that he was planning to back Labour this time?”

        Answer: No.

      • New Zealand’s Electoral Commission does go to the trouble of releasing statistics on how many people split their vote and in what manner they do so-however, those aren’t available yet (which may have been a blessing for Winston Peters). He was careful to drop no hints in the election campaign about who he would support.

        It’s hard not to agree with Tom here-the spectacle of Peters, having won just seven seats in Parliament, giving a press conference in which he told New Zealand who they were to be governed by is certainly unattractive, even if there are good reasons behind it. I suspect it is going to feel more like a No2AV broadcast come to life as Peters accepts his position in cabinet and fleshes out the details of the compromises he made with Labour. Nonetheless, MMP has survived similar occurrences in NZ, occurrences which coincidentally also involved Peters.

      • It’s actually not a problem of proportional representation. Australia faced an identical situation in 2010 when neither major party had a majority on the house of representatives. Ditto Britain after the 2017 election. Ditto Canada on repeated occasions.

        In Australia in 2010 early counting showed the Coalition leading the two-party preferred vote and they argued that the 2PP winner should form the government. As counting progressed the 2PP shifted to Labor and the Coalition then argued, as per Stephen Harper’s invented constitutional convention, that the party with the most seats should form the government.

        Subsequently they argued that the independents who supported Labor were acting improperly because it was said that the Coalition was ‘in the DNA’ of their electorates, a fact apparently unknown to the electors in those districts. Unfortunately Julia Gillard proved deeply inept at winning elections and dragged the independents into oblivion with her, tending to confirm the DNA argument.

        You either amend the constitution to provide for some formal way to identify the head of government or you leave it entirely in the hands of the parliament.

      • > “because it was said that the Coalition was ‘in the DNA’ of their electorates”

        yes, that was a particularly dumb argument that stood out amidst a sea of dumb arguments. “Windsor/ Oakeshott supported Labor to govern, when Labor came third in his electorate! Boo hiss!” Well, yes, that is true. However – I do believe that whenever National Party candidates win Lower House seats, they almost always (apart from Karlene Maywald, and various doings in Victoria seven decades ago) support the Liberals to govern… EVEN THOUGH THE LIBERAL CANDIDATE RAN THIRD IN THEIR ELECTORATE!!!! In other words, Oakeshott and Windsor chose to ally in parliament against their main rival at the ballot-box. Really, is anyone surprised?

        On the other hand, Oakeshott and Windsor hadn’t been supporting conservative governments in power for most of the past 21 years, and if they had and suddenly switched the day after the 2010 election, I would give more credence to the howls of betrayal.

        There’s “legal” in the sense of “rules the courts will intervene to enforce against unwilling parties” and then there’s “political good faith” in the sense of “this sort of behaviour may be technically legal but playing fast and loose like that erodes public faith in the political system and tends to encourage short-term goal-scoring, which is undesirable over the long term.”

      • Alan, I’m well aware that hung parliaments can take place under majoritarian electoral systems as well. However, I hardly think I’m offering any sort of radical proposition in saying that they are *dramatically more likely* to happen under systems of proportional representation. I believe that New Zealand had never had a hung parliament as a result of an election under the two-party era of FPTP-each election since MMP has resulted in one. From the perspective of the voter, having one in ten elections result in a minor party leader choosing the Prime Minister with little accountability is quite different to having it happen once in two elections.

      • I will spare you the somewhat embarrassing link where Julie Bishop insists she has the highest regard for your new prime minister.

  26. NZ is going Scandinavian or British Columbian, the 2nd largest party is forming government. Is this the first time in NZ history that the 2nd largest party formed government? No turning back, NZ is never going back to the bad old days of FPTP and an elective dictatorship.

    There was a mandate for change, I don’t think that it is a deal breaker for PR that the second largest party is forming government, hey look at the U.S electoral college, a 2nd round system where the candidate that is in second place in the first round, wins the election in the second round or even a preferential vote system like Australia where it is rare for a candidate to win from second place, and even rarer from third place, but then after the distribution of preferences wins the election.

    Still I wonder how the Greens and NZ First are going to work together and get along. Jacinda Ardern is a charismatic person, she should be able to get the job done. Are coalitions good for the big party or worse for the little party?

    • “Still I wonder how the Greens and NZ First are going to work together and get along. ”

      Winston would appear to have decided it’s best to create a first-term government, with the prospect of it being re-elected in 2020 (after he has retired), than a fourth-term government, which would surely lose in 2020 – with his party’s fortunes going with it.

      So, presumably, they’ll act like adults and work together for “the greater good”. Apparently, NZ First will have four Cabinet positions, and the Greens more than one. How many of those positions will be inside and outside Cabinet, will be revealed tomorrow or next week (Monday 23 is Labour Day, a national public holiday). Although he didn’t confirm it tonight, Winston will be Deputy PM.

      • Could someone please explain this institution of ‘ministers outside cabinet’? I understand it when it refers to junior ministers, who are too low down the executive hierarchy to be included in cabinet meetings (as in the UK). But in NZ, Peters was the *foreign minister* while outside cabinet. How does that work?

      • Regarding JD’s question on “ministers outside cabinet”, this is always a bit puzzling to me, too. Not counting junior ministers, I am not sure it is done elsewhere, but I hope someone can correct me if that is wrong. I understand it to be a NZ innovation, probably with Clark’s 2005 cabinet (maybe earlier), and continued in every NZ government since then (I think).

        It means the minister is as fully in charge of his or her portfolio as any other, but is not bound by cabinet collective responsibility on anything outside the scope of the portfolio. So, Peters, when he was Foreign Minister, was charged with implementing cabinet policy with respect to relations with other countries, but he was free to disagree on economic policy, or whatever. It is quite a clever arrangement, and apparently it works, given that both major parties have done it with various smaller partners.

        It is likely I am not telling JD anything he did not know, and that the question was more of the sort “how does it work for voters assessing responsibility?” or “how does policy get made, in practice?”. I wish I knew the answers…

    • > “even a preferential vote system like Australia where it is rare for a candidate to win from second place, and even rarer from third place, but then after the distribution of preferences wins the election.”

      True, but when that happens in Australia, it is seen as giving effect to – not overriding – the wishes of the voters themselves.

      It would be closer to the NZ model if the voters in each Australian electoral division used closed-list PR with Sainte-Lague highest averages to choose a college of 200 or 300 Grand Electors who then select an MP by repeated balloting, as Finland did between WW1 and 1994 to choose its President.

      • Ie, it’s one thing if a majority of the voters themselves override a plurality of the voters themselves. it’s often seen as a different kettle of fish if a majority of the delegates of the voters override a plurality of the voters themselves. Especially without any prior warning.A potential principal/ agent problem.

  27. “Is this the first time in NZ history that the 2nd largest party formed government? ”

    Answer: I believe so, yes.

    Even during the period of three-party politics in New Zealand (1911-1931), the largest party, the Reform Party, was part of government (actually starting in 1912).

  28. In 2011 42% of New Zealand First supporters split their vote in favour of the Labour electorate candidate; in 2014 the fraction was 37%. Both times this was more than double the split in favour of the National candidates.

    Is there any indication that the 2017 results will be markedly different?

    • I did not take notes when perusing the results (as a good Votes blogger should), but it looked to me like there was a good chance the pattern was similar this time.

      • Well, we now know it was a much closer split in 2017. About 22% of NZF party voters went for the Labour electorate candidate and about 24% went for the National candidate; 44% stayed with NZF, even though there were few electorates where the party’s candidate would have had any chance.

      • Yes, we certainly do. I have expanded a little on this comment at the “Labour-led” thread, at–

        “25/10/2017 at 10:00 pm

        “In fact, setting aside the Māori Electorates…”.

  29. Pingback: NZ government 2017: Labour-led | Fruits and Votes

      • I believe Japan precludes legislators elected on the PR list from forming a new party after leaving their own. This would seem consistent with the Japanese tendency to treat legislators on the lists as ‘second-class’ (see also the frequent description of MPs on the list as ‘zombies’), though it seems like NZ’s 2001 anti-defection law also applied only to list seats.

      • Yes, the re-emergence of waka-jumping legislation is a surprise.

        This must surely be down entirely to Winston. The first MMP government went pear-shaped in August 1998 (nine months after Shipley had rolled Bolger). I’ll leave those of you interested, to Google the details, but clearly, Winston wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again, especially now that he is widely assumed to be in “legacy” mode. I suspect it would have been an easy one for Jacinda to agree to.

    • I wasn’t aware that NZ needed a new parliament building. Labour and NZ First have an interest in improving MMP because this system helped it form government. Waka Jumping or anti defection legislation, I would think that under the close party list MPs have no right to leave their party to become an independent let alone join another party because that would destroy the proportionality of the system, as for the FPTP MPs or SMD plurality or SMD majoritarian like the French 2 Round System or Australian Preferential Vote system, voters vote for an individual candidate not for a party, so they can leave their party to become an independent or to join another existing one. How does one handle this situation if an MP wants to change parties, perhaps a window of defection can be started when parliament is dissolve.

      What countries in the world have anti-defection legislation? It makes sense to ban it completely under a close party List system, and MMP/MMM systems for the close party list tier. If the party lists are open, then I would think it is more permissible for an MP to leave their party to become an independent, but not to join another existing party within the assembly. If that MP resigns or dies, then that seat goes back to the party that it was elected from. As for an STV system, that is a whole different story.

  30. In Israel break away MP’s used to be very common. In the 90’s some arrangements were made to limit this – especially since breakaways decided the fate of the government in parliamentary crisis in 1990. Today the law distinguishes between legitimate splinter faction and illegitemate breakaway MP. A group of at least one third of the original faction can splinter (and less than a third under certain circumstances such as a faction that was elected as one list but representing several parties with each one having their own candidates – here the MP’s representing a distinct party can splinter even if they are less than a third of the faction). If an MP or a group breaks away not as a legitimate splinter he is barred from contesting the next election as part of an existing party represented in parliament meaning he can only run in a new party. An MP is considered a breakaway if he votes on confidence against his own faction while recieving some form of consideration such as appointment to government post or being promised a place in next election’s list. So this is a complex arrangement intended to limit the possibility of MP’s to ‘sell’ their votes to an existing or aspiring government while enabling ideological votes and splintering of a significant portion of a faction that might represent a portion of the actual voters. Does it work? Depend on who you ask and when. While there is no real chance of government change or defeat in ño confidance it seems to work ok. But when the government is weak there are always ideas floating of how to bypass or change the rules to topple the government or strengthen it.

  31. Pingback: No Jamaica? | Fruits and Votes

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