MMP Electorate Threshold Review

Factsheet for the 2012 review of MMP.  Click here to return to our MMP review page, or here for the 5% threshold factsheet.

“The one electorate seat threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats.”

What’s the issue?

The one seat threshold is passed when a party wins enough votes to win an electorate seat. This is not a problem.

An issue arises for some people when a party wins an electorate ‘lifeboat’ and pulls aboard a number of MPs with its Party Vote.

At 2008 election, ACT Party got nearly 4% of the vote. If we only had the 5% Party threshold ACT MPs would not have gained any extra seats in Parliament in 2008.

But ACT won the electorate seat of Epsom and 4% of the Party Vote so they got 5 MPs in Parliament. One MP from the Electorate threshold and four MPs from the Party threshold. This is allowed under the current MMP rules.

‘Coat-tailing’: pulling extra MPs on board is seen as ‘not right’ by some voters.

In 2008 New Zealand First got just over 4% of the Party Vote but no MPs  – they had no electorate ‘lifeboat’. Since they got less than 5% Party Vote they got no seats in Parliament. This was seen as ‘unfair’ by many voters.

If we only had the 5% Party Vote rule we would have roughly 5 parties in Parliament. With the combination of rules – Electorate Vote and Party Vote we get about 7 parties in Parliament.

New Zealanders value the proportional nature of MMP – if a party gets 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats in Parliament. They also like everyone’s vote counting no matter where they live in New Zealand.

With the Epsom ‘lifeboat’ occupied by ACT and the Ōhariu ‘lifeboat’ by United Future – people think a vote in these electorates has become more important.

This undermines the equal value of the MMP vote in people’s eyes.

Some options:
(a) Break the link between the Electorate Threshold and Party Vote Threshold
(b) Eliminate the Electorate Threshold
(c) Increase the number of electorates to pass the Electorate Threshold (from one to three)

Consequences

Break the link
This would mean a Party could get into Parliament after winning only one seat – but it could not claim more MPs (if it did not pass the Party Vote Threshold)

There would be only one clear threshold – the rule 5% of the Party Vote. Everyone’s vote would have equal value. The voters in Epsom or Ōhariu would not be special.

It would be fair to a new party starting out – if they won one seat they get the privileges of a party in Parliament.

Eliminate the threshold
This would mean the person elected would be treated as an ‘independent’ MP with no party privileges or extra resources.

There would be only one clear threshold – the rule 5% of the Party Vote. Everyone’s vote would have equal value. The voters in Epsom or Ōhariu would not be special.

It would be difficult for a new party with one electorate seat to survive without the privileges of a party.

Increase the size of the threshold
The Germans faced a similar problem with their MMP system and decided to fix it by raising the one seat threshold to 3.

This would mean a party would need to win 3 different electorates to gain the privileges of a party in Parliament.

There would still be two thresholds – the Party Threshold and the 3 Electorates Threshold.

It would be difficult for a new party to win three electorate seats.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s