MMP 5% Party Vote Threshold Review

Factsheet for the 2012 review of MMP.  Click here to return to our MMP review page, or here for the electorate lifeboat threshold factsheet.

“The 5 per cent party vote threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats.”

What’s the issue?

A party needs to get 5% or over of the Party Vote to get seats in Parliament roughly the same as the vote given to them at the Election. Some people think 5% is too high a threshold saying it excludes too many voters if they vote for an unsuccessful small party.

In 2008 New Zealand First got just over 4% of the Party Vote but no MPs  – they did not win an electorate seat. Since they got less than 5% Party Vote they got no seats in Parliament. This was seen as ‘unfair’ by many voters.

The Royal Commission on the Electoral System, 1986 argued: “The Commission considers that the [4%] threshold is a justifiable and desirable means of preventing the proliferation of minor parties in the House. Such a proliferation could threaten the stability and effectiveness of government.”

Since MMP began roughly 18 parties competed for seats at each election. Most fail to get above 5%, and if no threshold existed most would still fail to get 1% of the vote.

If there was no 5% threshold only two parties (since 2005 Election) would have entered Parliament: NZ First (2008) and Conservative Party (2011)

Many people feel that if the Electorate Seat threshold is eliminated then there should be a movement downwards in the 5% Party Vote threshold to compensate.

Some options:
(a)    Reduce the Party Vote Threshold to 4%
(b)    Keep the Party Vote Threshold but lower the percentage
(c)    Eliminate the Party Vote Threshold

Consequences

Threshold to 4%

The Royal Commission which recommended MMP suggested a threshold of 4% to keep down the number of parties. This was later raised to 5%, the same size as the threshold in Germany.

The number of parties in Parliament has not been a problem. Some would say that trying to get small parties into Parliament using the electorate ‘lifeboat’ is a problem.

Using the 4% rule from 1996 would have brought in the following number of parties: 1996 (1), 1999 (0), 2002 (0), 2005 (0), 2008 (1), 2011 (0)

Reducing the threshold to 4% would have little effect or no effect.

Keeping a threshold may have kept down the number of parties and kept out extreme parties.

Lower the threshold below 4%
Using a 3% rule from 1996 would have brought in the following number of parties: 1996 (1), 1999 (0), 2002 (0), 2005 (0), 2008 (1), 2011 (0)

This would not assist a new party entering Parliament.

Reducing the threshold to 3% would have little or no effect, even reducing the threshold to 2% would have only brought in two extra parties in 18 years.

Keeping a threshold may have kept down the number of parties and kept out extreme parties.

The small number of wasted votes will become even smaller.

Eliminate the threshold
In effect there would be a threshold of nearly 1% (because there are 120 seats in Parliament).

If there was no threshold from 1996 the number of extra parties would have been: 1996 (2), 1999 (3), 2002 (3), 2005 (0), 2008 (1), 2011 (1)

Eliminating the 5% threshold will have a moderate effect of increasing the number of parties in Parliament.

Keeping a threshold may keep down the number of parties and kept out extreme parties.

The small number of wasted votes will become even smaller.

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