MMP: What about Politics?

September 25, 2009

Due to the upcoming referendum on the MMP electoral system in New Zealand, there have been a raft of blog postings on the performance of the present system, what people would prefer in a new electoral system, what the effect of the 5%  threshold is, and different types of electoral system.

These all make for interesting reading, if you are interested in arcane electoral mechanics, mundane spreadsheet calculations and the functioning of democracy in obscure countries (like NZ).

However they all miss one aspect of the debate around MMP, and that is Politics, or ‘Who gets what, when and how’.

They seem to assume that NZ politics will be solely defined by its electoral system and miss other things such as public opinion, political parties, interest groups, political culture, the list goes on.

It is therefore worthwhile asking: Would having a different electoral system change NZ politics? The answer is, not very much. The changes would be on the fringes: with perhaps slightly higher representation for smaller parties in Parliament, and perhaps the creation and representation of a new party or two.

Due to the inate tendency of party policy to tend to the middle, it can be safely assumed that the majority of the votes cast will be gathered by two large parties who battle it out for the chance to form a government.

Sound familiar? Yep, it sounds like democracy pretty much all over the world. That’s the beauty of not examining an electoral system in isolation but in its context, Politics.