MMP review opens door to more wannabe Winston tail waggers

Opponents of MMP have slammed proposed changes to the controversial voting system saying they are a recipe for more instability and unpredictability.

The recommendations, which include lowering the party threshold to 4% and abolishing the one electorate seat threshold, are contained in the Electoral Commission’s final review of MMP.

“New Zealanders have been conned,” constitutional lawyer Jordan Williams told NBR ONLINE.

“New Zealanders made it pretty clear in last year’s referendum on MMP that they didn’t want to go back to First Past the Post, but instead wanted a toned-down version of MMP.

“By lowering the party threshold to 4% you’re actually making MMP even worse because you make it more likely that the likes of Winston Peters will hold the balance of power."

Mr Williams, who is a former campaigner for Vote for Change which lobbied against MMP, says if the recommendations are adopted they will allow “even more small party tails to wag the dog”.

“This is Simon Power’s legacy in that he set up a regime where the review followed a referendum which means that any changes ultimately will be up to the politicians and not New Zealanders.

“They will squabble over these recommendations and pick and choose which ones suit them as opposed to New Zealanders having the final say.”

Mr Williams is especially critical of Prime Minister John Key for not doing more to rid New Zealand of what law professor James Allan recently described on NBR ONLINE as “a lousy voting system that puts the major political parties at the mercy of small ones”.

“John Key had the opportunity to get rid of an electoral system that favours his opponents and he chose to sit on the sidelines, preferring the short-term electoral interests of the last election rather than the long term interests of the National party,” he says.

“This is the biggest strategic blunder this government has made and for members of the National party assisting in our anti-MMP campaign is was hugely frustrating.

“So we are stuck with MMP for the foreseeable future and what we must resist now is making it even worse and I argue that reducing the party threshold will make it worse.

“Winston Peters is hardly the champion of stable government but even he acknowledges there is a cost of lowering the threshold and that cost is stability, predictability and accountability.

“Governing arrangements and lines of accountability are complex enough without letting more marginal parties into Parliament.

“The Electoral Commission has made no effort to address the power of party bosses to select, rank and exercise power over list MPs.

“Their report ignores the overwhelming calls for transparency in list rankings.”

Former ACT MP Muriel Newman is also alarmed at some of the commission’s recommendations.

In a recent article for the NZ Herald she wrote:

“We know with absolute certainty lowering the threshold will enable more extreme minority interest groups to dictate to the larger broad church parties.

“The price of National’s 2008 coalition deal with the Maori party (the parliamentary arm of the Maori sovereignty movement) which won only 2.4% of the party vote at that election, was the secret signing up of New Zealand to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (an agreement deemed so radical that former Prime Minister Helen Clark refused to sign) and the repeal of public ownership of New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed to open it up to tribal claims.

“More concessions were gained in the 2011 coalition deal with National when the Maori party negotiated a hand picked panel to review New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements – no doubt to recommend the Treaty of Waitangi be given sovereign status.

“Let’s not forget the Maori party only achieved 1.4% of the party vote then and it doesn’t even represent a majority of Maori,” Dr Newman says.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Judith Collins says the government will consider the Electoral Commission’s recommendations before consulting with other parties in parliament for their views.

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