OPINION: The Electoral Commission has all but written the death notices for ACT and UnitedFuture in its draft revamp of MMP.
Lowering the threshold to 4 per cent offers scant comfort to Parliament's minnows; both parties missed by a mile in 2011 and neither shows any sign of getting closer in 2014.
Worse, dumping the "coat-tailing" rule cuts their last lifeline.
It allows a party which wins an electorate seat to claim its share of the list seats, even if it falls below the 5 per cent threshold.
From National's point of view, deals with Peter Dunne and John Banks were less about securing a coalition partner and more about ensuring Centre-Right votes were not wasted.
The loss of 2, 3, or 4.3 per cent in the case of the Christian coalition in 1996, could make the difference between Government and Opposition.
That risk justified the demeaning Key-Banks cuppa and accusations of gerrymandering that followed.
The draft changes are bad news for Mana too.
Hone Harawira looks solid in the Tai Tokerau seat, but the "coat-tailing" law is his best chance of picking up a second and even third MP.
If the review's recommendations make it into law, the big winner will be Colin Craig's Conservatives.
In 2011, with limited time but plenty of cash, he gleaned 2.65 per cent; close enough to 4 per cent for him to bridge it in his own right.
But with National crying out for allies, its canny voters will make the tactical call and take the Conservatives across the line.
That creates a dilemma for National.
With NZ First's backing for the 5 per cent threshold and the coat-tailing rule, albeit only for parties that get 4 per cent of the party vote, it would comfortably have the numbers to maintain the status quo.
But times have changed.
Its support is edging lower, ACT and UnitedFuture are moribund and the Maori Party can only be relied on if National has a majority elsewhere.
Making it easier for both the Conservatives and NZ First to be re-elected in 2014 suddenly makes a whole lot of sense.
Supporting the commission's view would also allow National to claim the moral high ground as the party that set aside self-interest and deferred to the commission and the public's view.
How much more delicious for National that it aligns with its own best interests.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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