It looks ugly on paper, but Mixed Member Proportional voting, which is what New Zealand has for a voting system actually is working.
For those who are not old enough to remember the First Pass the Post (F.P.P.)system of old, which ended in 1993 I shall lay down here why New Zealand abandoned it. There are several reasons:
- A vote for anyone other than the winner or the runner up would have been a wasted vote – so for example a vote for the Green Party would be a wasted vote because it was not for National or Labour; in the case of the Alliance Party whilst in Parliament prior to 2002, a vote for it would detract from the ideologically similar Labour Party
- F.P.P. promoted tactical voting where the party most likely to win got the vote, even if the voter preferred that neither the winner or runner up, won
- F.P.P. meant a small party that some how made it into an elected chamber would draw away votes from the largest party of similar nature, thereby aiding the largest dissimilar party
The fourth Labour Government, where radical changes were ushered in by Labour, which included significant deregulation – against Labours founding principles – caused significant angst on the left. Unemployment skyrocketed to 247,000 at one point in 1989, or nearly 10% of working age New Zealanders at the time. State owned assets such as New Zealand Rail had assets sold off. The New Zealand Dollar was floated.
One might have expected National, upon election in 1990, to ease off on the market reforms. To no avail. National ushered in what was known by social justice campaigners as Ruthenasia – an unprecedented and savage attack on social welfare, health and social housing, effectively dismantling the . So unpopular were the policies that former National Party leader Sir Robert Muldoon resigned and National nearly lost the 1993 election.
The net result of these nine years – or three consecutive terms of parties breaking promises – was public revolt at the ballot box. National’s majority was cut to just 1 seat. However Labour did not necessarily pick up all the slack. Small parties such as New Zealand First and the Alliance formed, which served to tell the two big parties that their performance was not satisfactory to many. National promised to offer a referendum on a new political system, which would be called Mixed Member Proportional.
The purpose was then, as it is now, to stop large scale radical changes in Government policy. This was achieved by giving smaller parties more sway at the ballot box. Mixed Member Proportional is not perfect, but 21 years after it was first used in 1996, it has managed to keep in check the political parties. There has yet to be an absolute majority Government where a single party can pass legislation on its own since 1996. That is the effect of a functional M.M.P. system.
In two words: IT WORKS.