Small party ructions hit confidence in MMP - Key

Recent events involving difficulties within small parties is likely to have undermined public confidence in MMP, but that won't necessarily mean voters will want a change, says Prime Minister John Key.

The public will get a chance at next year's election to vote for a change in the electoral system, and recent issues such as internal ructions in the ACT Party and the at times rogue element within the Maori Party regarding support from MP Hone Harawira means MMP will be under the microscope.

"My instincts have been that when you see issues around smaller parties it tends to undermine the confidence in MMP as a system," Mr Key said today.

He said that did not necessarily equate to people wanting to vote MMP out, as they still had to choose an option which they considered would be a better alternative.

The referendum will ask voters whether they want to retain MMP and which alternative system they would prefer from a list of options.

If a majority want change, another referendum will be held at the same time as the 2014 general election, when MMP will be run off against the preferred option from the first referendum.

If more than 50 percent of voters opt to retain MMP in the first referendum, the Electoral Commission will undertake a review to consider whether changes to it are necessary or desirable.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the ACT Party's woes related to "character and bad decision making" by departed MP David Garrett, leader Rodney Hide and then Mr Key.

"That has nothing to do with MMP, and I'm sorry, but the prime minister has used MMP as an excuse for his inability to act decisively over Mr Hide and Mr Garrett".

He said he expected National would want a change, but from his own point of view, the current system was fair and he would continue supporting it.

Mr Key said he hadn't decided which way he would vote in the referendum, but it was likely to be for some sort of change, while he suspected voters would want to retain a proportional system, but not MMP.

NZPA