Pressure's on to tweak MMP

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2012

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The Government is under pressure to back proposed changes to MMP despite originally opposing them.

The Electoral Commission yesterday revealed its suggestions for improving the electoral system following the referendum last year.

It said the party-vote threshold should be reduced from 5 per cent to 4 per cent, and the one-seat "coat-tailing" threshold, which allows parties that win one electorate seat to bring other MPs into Parliament, should be abolished.

But it remains to be seen whether the National Party will adopt the changes.

A spokesman for Acting Prime Minister Bill English said they would be "carefully considered" over coming weeks.

National has previously said it wants the threshold to remain at 5 per cent and the one-electorate-seat threshold to be retained.

If applied to the current Parliament, the proposed changes would see National list MP Cam Calder lose his seat because of the removal of the overhang provision.

The impact would have been more marked in 2008: ACT would have had one seat, not five; the Greens would have dropped one and National two, while NZ First would have returned to Parliament with five seats.

Electoral commissioner Robert Peden said the changes proposed were important but did not significantly alter the electoral system.

That meant there was no need for a referendum and, if adopted by the Government, they could be in place for the 2014 election.

Labour's associate justice spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said the proposals were well-considered.

"Everyone wants to see an end to political stitch-ups and canning this [coat-tailing] clause will stop dodgy ‘tea party' deals."

She welcomed lowering the threshold to 4 per cent, which would make a "fairer system".

The commission also said political parties should remain in control of their lists, candidates should be able to stand in an electorate and on a party list, and list MPs should be able to contest by-elections.

It was concerned about the gradual erosion of list seats relative to electorate seats which risked undermining the diversity and proportionality of Parliament.

Parliament should review the matter, Mr Peden said.

Campaign for MMP spokeswoman Sandra Grey said she would like more discussion about making the party vote threshold even lower.

However, there had been no need for wholesale changes to the system.

"These tweaks do stabilise the system and deliver what people want. The big question is what happens next in terms of it being picked up by political leaders?"

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ACT party leader John Banks said the proposals were "woeful" and he did not support them.

"Those who want to gerrymander with the electoral system do so because they lost the last election."

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the changes were anti-democratic.

He supports the current party vote threshold but wants the one-seat rule to apply only to parties that get at least 4 per cent of the party vote.

"There have been numerous attempts to corrupt the integrity of MMP by the National, ACT and UnitedFuture parties."

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne supports a 3 per cent party threshold and retaining the one- electorate-seat threshold.

THE PROPOSALS

  • The one-electorate-seat threshold for allocating list seats should be abolished.
  • The party vote threshold for allocating list seats should be lowered to 4 per cent from 5.
  • The provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold.
  • Candidates should continue to be able to stand both in an electorate and on a party list at general elections.
  • List MPs should continue to be able to contest by-elections.
  • Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the composition and ranking of candidates on their party lists.
  • Parliament should review the gradual erosion of list seats relative to electorate seats as it risks undermining the diversity and proportionality of Parliament.

- The Dominion Post

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