Opponents of MMP often cite Winston Peters as the poster boy for MMP, an example of the type of politician that exercises undue power under MMP.
The reality is a far different story, according to Campaign for MMP spokesperson Dr Sandra Grey.
“Mr Peters came to prominence and power under First Past the Post. He was elected a National Party MP for the Hunua electorate. Ironically, voters voted him out in 1981 only to see him re-emerge in a safe National seat, Tauranga, three years later.”
Mr Peters was a Minister of Maori Affairs under First Past the Post, and one of the country’s most popular and powerful politicians. He led a faction within the National Party that had all the semblance of a minor party except that it had never been on a ballot paper where people could choose whether they liked it or not.
The history of Winston Peters under MMP is a very different one. Each election his party has campaigned on a clear set of values and policies that some people have supported and others have opposed. The party has received a commensurate level of support.
When it has acted in a way the electorate did not like voters punished it. In 1999 voters cut NZ First representation from 17 seats to just five. Then again, in 2005, its seats were cut from 13 to seven, and then down to zero in 2008.
“Many voters do not like Winston Peters and some do. Before MMP all National Party voters got Winston Peters as one of their MPs, whether they wanted him or not,” says Dr Grey. “Since then Mr Peters’ party only had the amount of support and power than he and his party earned with their own policies. That included being voted completely out of Parliament under MMP.”