I finished my previous post by stating that there is a disconnect between NZ society and the system through which it elects its parliament and I said the disconnect was that NZ society is pluralist and majoritarian, and the electoral system is consensual. This idea needs to be more fully developed.

As we all know, there are different types of democratic electoral systems all over the world. Prominent political scientist Arend Lijphart has looked at them and he sees two types of democracies: Majoritarian and Consensual.

Majoritarian Democracies are those like in Britain which are also called Westminster democracies. They are characterised by first-past-the-post voting, two-party dominance of parliament, powerful Prime Ministers/Cabinets, and unitary (not Federal) governance.

Consensual Democracies are like those in Germany and are characterised by proportional voting systems, multi-party coalition governments and federal governance.

So if there are these two types of democracy, which does New Zealand fit into? Lijphard actually addresses NZ in his book Patterns of Democracy and for him it was the best example of Majoritarian Democracy, until the introduction of MMP in 1996.

Since then the picture is a little clouded. Perhaps you might have thought NZ had swung all the way over to a Consensual Democracy, but that is not the case. Lijphard works on 2 Dimensions: Executive-Parties and Unitary-Federal.

1. Executive-Parties Dimension: Here NZ seems to be on the Consensual side. Since 1996 we have only had multiparty coalitions in government; we vote according to proportional voting rules; in the end, it is not easy for one party to take control of government.

The only place where we diverge is in interest group mediation, where NZ is more pluralist than corporatist, i.e. interest groups agitate on their own behalf for influence and do not reach compromises within their own institutions.

2. Federal-Unitary Dimension: On this one NZ would seem to be more on the Majoritarian side. We do not have independent federal states with wide-ranging competence and independently elected parliaments; we have no independent upper house of parliament; we have no written constitution and no constitutional court. In effect, once in power the government has great control of actual policy.

Here we diverge only in that we have an independent central bank.

So it looks like since the introduction of MMP New Zealand has gone from a majoritarian democracy to a bit of a mixture between majoritarian and consensual democracy.

Or, if we look at which aspects have changed from majoritarian to consensual we see that only those factors relating to the electoral system have changed: Which parties are represented in Parliament; How many parties are in Government; How people vote in elections. Everything else has remained the same, staunchly Majoritarian.

This seems to me to be part of the disconnect: Half the political system has been wrenched from Majoritarian to Consensual Democracy while the other half has continued on as before.