November 09, 2008

What my version parliament would look like

Nothing riles democratically minded people more than the notion that one vote is worth more than another. Hence the derision with which various electoral systems that produce large power in a small number hands are met, be it the US electoral college system or the British First-Past-The-Post (FPP).
New Zealand got rid of FPP several elections ago, and of course many are still pining for the good old days when a few well drawn rural electorates could ensure (twice) that the natural party of Government prevailed, even if its total number of votes didn't. The peasants got sick of tugging their forelocks and ushered in MMP (modelled on Germany).
So last night's result is a good indicator of what is currently wrong with MMP and what needs changing to ensure something resembling our democratic ideals.
First there is the two-seat "overhang", extra seats that are created because some parties win more electorate seats than their party vote entitles them to.
Then there is the 5% threshold for party votes to guarantee seat allocation.
And third the "coat-tail" seats, when parties get extra seats because they won one electorate but not 5% overall.
All these flaws were in play last night: the Maori Party got 2 overhang seats, ACT got 4 coat-tail seats and NZF got no seats at all despite polling higher than ACT nationally.

So time to get rid of these flaws and this what a democratic parliament should look like based on last night's results (it is a moot point that had these flaws been removed, people would have voted differently because there would be no longer need for "tactical" voting). Percentages translated into seats by multiplying by 1.2. The last figure is the difference with the current outcome. Since the threshold is 0.8% this parliament would have 117 seats (using the Swedish rounding of percentage fractions). (UPDATED with the final results on 23 November)

National: 44.93% = 53.92 seats = 54 (-4)
Labour: 33.99% = 40.80 seats = 41 (-2)
Green: 6.72% = 8.06 seats = 8 (-1)
ACT: 3.65% = 4.38 seats = 4 (-1)
Maori Party: 2.39% = 2.87 seats = 3 (-2)
Progressive: 0.91% = 1.09 seats = 1 (-)
NZ First: 4.07% = 4.88 seats = 5 (+5)
United Future: 0.87% = 1.04 seats = 1 (-)

So a National/Act/UF Government would still be possible.
Anyway, on another note, one of the faux electorate contests took place in my own with the sitting Labour member ejected by the Green candidate splitting the vote to let the Tory girl in. Three-horse races are never conducive to good outcomes.
So we're off to celebrate with the Green Party on Waiheke. Perhaps I could lobby my old mate and freshly minted Green MP Kevin Hague to draw up a Private Member's Bill to remedy those MMP flaws, preferably before the Tories throw the whole thing out and go back to shire rule.

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