A disappointing 74 per cent of registered voters cast votes in November last year. The Key Government secured a sufficient majority to be re-elected, and in a referendum on the voting system a clear majority opted to keep MMP. An independent review to improve the way MMP works was conducted nevertheless.
We were all invited to have our say. The Electoral Commission, in charge of the review, published a consultation paper in February and called for public submissions by post, email, online or at public hearings.
The commission yesterday published its proposals paper after hearing 4698 submissions. This means 0.1 per cent of registered voters exercised their right to express their views, which suggests 99.9 per cent of us are relaxed or indifferent about what might be done to our electoral system.
Alternatively, the great majority of us despair that- no matter what we want or what the commission recommends - a majority of self-serving politicians in Parliament will decide what to do with the commission's report.
The most important of its draft recommendations would abolish the one-electorate-seat threshold for the allocation of list seats and lower the party-vote threshold for the allocation of list seats from 5 per cent to 4 per cent. Another recommendation, to be rid of the provision of so-called overhang seats for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold, in effect would cap the number of MPs at 120.
Smaller but well-organised parties that can muster a solid party turnout - most notably the Greens and New Zealand First - are the obvious winners from these proposals. But a few parliamentarians and their supporters have good reason to resist the changes. They are the one-seat party leaders - Mana's Hone Harawira, United Future's Peter Dunne and ACT's John Banks.
The proposals paper is open for submissions until September 7 and the commission will send its final report to the Government on October 31. Accordingly, we all have another chance to persuade the commission of the need for more extreme changes to our electoral system, if we feel strongly that tinkering is not enough. The louder the voice from the public, the harder it will be for Parliament to ignore the final recommendations.
- Waikato Times