Should there be term limits for list MPs?

Last updated 14:53 17/01/2012

One of the more unpopular features of MMP is the ability of an electorate MP sacked by his electorate to remain in Parliament as a list MP.

The upcoming review of MMP will look at this issue, along with many others.

One solution that has been mooted is you don't allow electorate candidates to stand on the party list - they must choose one or the other.

This is superficially appealing, but has two serious drawbacks.

The first is that if no electorate candidates are on the party list, then they have no personal incentive to campaign for the party vote, and hence parties will have candidates campaigning for the wrong vote.

The second is that it would mean that respected list MPs such as Attorney-General wouldn't stand in safe seats held by another party, such as Rongotai where he does stand. He would stand list only.

In discussing this issue with a colleague a few days ago, we identified that the reason many members of the public don't like list MPs is because they are indirectly elected via parties, rather than directly elected by voters.

A list MP gets elected because people vote for a party, and the party has ranked them highly. An electorate MP gets elected because people tick their name at the ballot box.

The idea that came to mind was that rather than ban electorate candidates from being on the party list, how about you instead introduce term limits for list MPs.

This would mean that you could only spend say three terms or nine years maximum in Parliament as a list MP.This would reduce the power of political parties to keep putting back into Parliament someone who is not wanted by their electorate.

The theory is that if you don't like the inclusion of someone on a party list, you can simply not vote for that party. But the reality is that no one is going to change their party vote on the basis of who is say No 11 on a party list.

You could argue why not have term limits for both electorate and list MPs. I happen to think there is some merit in that. But the argument is that electorate MPs are directly elected by the people, and can be directly sacked by the people. List MPs are indirectly elected, and hence term limits are more appropriate.

What do you think? Would you support say a limit of three terms or nine years for someone to remain a list MP?

David Farrar is a centre-right blogger affiliated to the National Party. His disclosure statement is here.

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Mark W   #1   02:55 pm Jan 17 2012


Angie   #2   03:01 pm Jan 17 2012

Yes!! And for the rest of them as well.

SAM   #3   03:02 pm Jan 17 2012

Definitely only 3. Cut down the time the 'turn up and get paids' can milk the tax payer!!

Dave   #4   03:04 pm Jan 17 2012

I think 9 years is way too long (it means they qualify for the very well paid MP's super). I believe one term on the list should be tops ... at least then voters would be able to sack the unpopular or ineffective!

Lou   #5   03:04 pm Jan 17 2012

A limit on all MP's is appropriate, they get to cozy with the contributors to their re-election campaigns. (IE.Those who bought their souls - lobbyists in the USA) But more importantly they run out of ideas and begin to think they walk on water. After all they are just common public servants - grossly overpaid mind you.

Mbossa   #6   03:05 pm Jan 17 2012

How about mandatory primary elections to determine party lists? That way, list MPs would be elected by the people, and unlike electorate MPs they'd be elected by all the people rather than just a few people who happen to live within a completely arbitrary geographical area.

Jon D   #7   03:09 pm Jan 17 2012

What about first rule of thumb should be should they lose their electorate sate but their party wins the party vote in their electorate they are standing in, they can be a list MP

Alan Wilkinson   #8   03:11 pm Jan 17 2012

No, you would just fill safe seats with party boss favourites. And small parties might never win an electorate seat but that shouldn't disenfranchise them.

The proper response to those who object to Party List MPs is this: You get to vote for List MPs in other areas so don't complain that other people got to vote for those in yours. If you don't like its List MPs, don't vote for the party. And if you didn't vote for the party your opinion of its List MPs is irrelevant.

And, in general, the quality of List MPs is no worse and often better than those in electorate seats.

Joel   #9   03:12 pm Jan 17 2012

Parties (those that hold electorates) could still get around it, by shifting around who they put in their various safe seats. For instance if a list MP was still wanted as they approached their term limit, one of their safe seats could be used as a back-door for that MP, with the previous electorate MP standing on the list instead. Of course, parties with no (or few) safe electorates would not have this option, and their best talent would eventually be shuffled out, perhaps prematurely depending on the length of the term limit.

I think an open list with a primary vote by party members is the best way to get rid of dead wood from the list. It has the added advantage of encouraging party involvement, and therefore involvement in the democratic process.

Patrick Leyland   #10   03:12 pm Jan 17 2012

I'm not sure your suggestion really gets to the crux of the problem, David, it's just fiddling around the edges.

I'd think that if there were a list MP who was not worth their seat in Parliament, then their party would get rid of them after three terms, if not before.

And in thinking about it, I can't think of any list MPs who have been there more than three terms, and certainly not any who pundits would consider underperformers.

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