Sunday, February 26, 2012


What percentage of the vote should a party have to win to be eligible for seats in Parliament? The thresholds (or Basis for Eligibility for List Seats) is the first of the seven issues being considered by the MMP Review that I am going to look at.

As I said in my last post I voted to retain MMP, I like proportionality and believe it produces the the fairest and most representative government. But the question here is proportionality or stability?

Why would we lower or remove the threshold? If we were to lower or remove the threshold it would make parliament more proportional and reduce the number of wasted votes (It is important to note that under full proportionality there will still be wasted seats, unless there is partial allocation of seats).

Many commentators have argued that if we lower the threshold it will be much harder to form stable governments and that we will be left with a parliament much like Israels (The current Knesset comprises 13 parties and the two largest parties do not have the numbers to form a majority). Other commentators have argued that in countries like Israel it is the culture that creates the instability and New Zealand would not have the same problems.

Based on my own analysis of the six General Elections that have taken place under MMP, not having a threshold would not have changed the outcome of the election (Although National in 1996 would have needed the support of either the Christian Coalition or Act to govern). A fully proportional system would have made the governments following the 2002 and 2011 elections more vulnerable to problems with their smaller members and hence less stable, although this does not necessarily mean they would have collapsed. This analysis is not perfect as it assumes people would have voted exactly the same way knowing there wasn't a threshold.

Despite the fact that removing the threshold would not have altered the result in the first six MMP elections, I am not in favour of removing it. While in these cases it has not led to an unstable parliament there is no guarantee that it would not do in future and I believe a balance needs to be reached between proportionality and stability. I think the 5% threshold has this about right.

I think there are two possible solutions to improve the proportionality of parliament and reduce the number of wasted votes.

The first is preferential voting. When you make your party vote you rank the parties in order of preference. The party with the lowest number of votes is discounted and their votes are given to the voters second preference. This continues until all votes are allocated to parties over the threshold. The benefit of this is that every vote counts, however it does continue to favour the established parties.

The second is an idea I may have come up with myself (as I cannot recall having heard about it anywhere else). It is the LMP or Limited Member of Parliament. Those parties who do not reach the 5% threshold but receive at least 0.83% of the vote (Enough to win a seat under a fully proportional system) are allocated one seat in parliament. They participate in debates, are on select committiees but do not get to vote. I believe this increases representation without affecting the stability of parliament.

No electoral system will ever be perfect, however I think the two above solutions could improve the NZ MMP electoral system. I believe the LMP in particular is an incredibly interesting idea that deserves investigation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

MMP Review!!!

Last Tuesday the Electoral Commission launched it's review of MMP. They are looking at seven issues:

- the thresholds for the allocation of list seats

- list members contesting by-elections

- the rules allowing candidates to both contest an electorate and be on a party list

- the rules for ordering candidates on party lists

- the effect of a party winning more electorate seats than its party vote share entitles it to

- the effects of the ratio of electorate seats to list seats on proportionality in certain circumstances

- other matters referred to the Commission by the Minister of Justice or Parliament

Over the next few weeks I will offer my opinions and ideas on these issues.

Disclaimer: I voted to retain MMP at the election and campaigned for it's retention (By wearing my nifty Keep Calm and Vote MMP t-shirt while out and about).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Santigold released the amazing Santogold album way back in 2008. Her second album Master of My Make-Believe is due out this year and to wet the appetite she has released the video for the first single today.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ban Saudi Arabia

This is absolutely incredible. Saudi Arabia has never sent a female athlete to the Olympic Games (Ditto Qatar and Brunei). "Ban Urged on Saudi Arabia Over Discrimination" Another in a long list of examples of the discrimination prevalent in Saudi Arabia against women.

The IOC withdrew it's invitation to South Africa to compete in the 1964 Summer Olympics because it refused to send a racially integrated team and the IOC need to follow suit again. New Zealand Football should cancel the two friendlies the Oly Whites are due to play later this month against the Saudi national team as the beginning of a sporting and cultural isolation.

Why is apartheid in South Africa unacceptable and yet the status of women in Saudi Arabia as second class citizens okay? (Let's hope the difference isn't oil)

See IOC/Saudi Arabia: End Ban on Women in Sport for more info from Human Rights Watch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is religion under threat?

Another great article on the The Guardian website (click here) about secularism versus religion in the UK.

As a committed atheist living in one of the most secular countries on earth I find the collision between religion and the rise of the non-religious fascinating.

As the number of atheists and agnostics continues to grow around the world we are increasingly speaking out against practices and rituals that are now out of place in a secular society. Unfortunately many religious people take this as an attack on their faith, when it is actually questioning the appropriateness of the faith in a public situation where a range of belief systems may be present.

Julian Baggini makes an interesting point when he says:

"Where tradition flies in the face of reason and justice, it should be dismantled. But when it merely teases it, it is often better to allow the passage to time to erode those anachronistic remnants than try to demolish them."

I have to wonder though if the passage of time will erode those anachronistic remnants. Surely people of faith will always argue against their removal and the erosion will in effect be a series of battle, the Bideford council decision merely being the first.

I will leave you with my favourite quote of the day, which also comes from The Guardian website. Courtesy of Hadley Freeman:

"As America battles with a struggling economy and high unemployment, the Republican primaries continue to focus on the real threat to national wellbeing: the vagina."

Monday, February 13, 2012

A new hope

So here we go again. This is attempt number zwei. My last blog having lasted a grand total of two posts before anonymously being left to rot in cyberspace.

Fingers crossed this will be a more successful undertaking, especially after the dithering that took place while I thought of a name for it (which included popping out to Monterey for a beer).

The name is an adaption of a lyric from a song I was listening to earlier in the evening. Plus I thought it offered a number of dual meanings relating to human beings and planet earth, as well as how I am living my own life (vomit!).

The internet has offered me a cloak of anonymity which I will wear for the meantime and see how things go.

Anyway... might go and read a book before hitting the sack.