The New Zealand electoral system has been mixed-member proportional (MMP) since 1996. MMP was introduced after a referendum in 1993. MMP replaced the first-past-the-post (FPP) system New Zealand had previously used for most of its history.
I believe a key reason New Zealanders voted for MMP was because they didn’t want one party having too much control in Government.
Interestingly, under FPP in 1981 Social Credit received over 20% of the vote across the country, but only gained two MPs in Parliament. This seemed fundamentally unfair to the 20% of New Zealanders who voted for the party.
I believe the MMP system delivers solid, stable governments, and ensures every vote in every electorate counts. For example, under FPP, if someone lives in an electorate where a Labour or National candidate tends to win every time, their vote for a Green or Act candidate is a wasted vote.
To answer the question above, I don’t have an issue with a party winning a seat and bringing others in. However, the 5% threshold is an ongoing matter for discussion. It’s very difficult for a new political party to reach this percentage. Lowering the threshold would allow more parties to make it into parliament. In 2011 a referendum was held to decide whether to retain MMP, with 56% of New Zealanders voting in favour.
I would personally be open to a discussion around a 4% threshold, but wouldn’t like to see it drop any lower than that. I maintain that any change to the system should be via a full public referendum.
The MMP threshold is a measure to determine entry of a political party into Parliament. Whilst removing or lowering the threshold could be argued to increase representation, it could lead to slower legislative processes. MMP was designed to function with this threshold.
Reducing or removing the threshold would likely see coalition or confidence and supply agreements established with multiple smaller parties, giving them significant influence. We have already seen in the last few years the significant influence and disruption created by New Zealand First in the current government.
Legislation would likely be harder to pass as small parties have their inputs, diminishing the power of Government and create more delays in the process. The power of these parties would be disproportional to their representation.
Parties that win electorate seats but receive low polling nation-wide can get representation for their constituent and party votes. For example, the Maori Party in 2005 and 2008 won four electorates seat despite their nationwide results only allocating three seats for the party. This gave the Maori party what is known as an overhang seat.
Winning an electorate seat has a very high threshold and it is not easily done. This ensures that winning is representative of gaining public approval. Small parties may struggle to reach the 5% but also win an electorate seat, this allows them to have this representation and hence a higher number of MPs. This reflects the degree of public approval in winning the seat while acknowledging the 5% threshold is very difficult to attain.
New Zealand has a strong electoral system. Voters have twice opted to continue with the current MMP system and the current threshold.