This year, alongside the general election there will be a referendum on the future of MMP and the selection of a potential competitor, should we decide that replacing MMP is an option. I want to look at the different options for electoral system that we have available.
I am going to try to be as objective as possible here but I should start off by establishing what my own opinion is. I do not believe that any of the systems on offer in the upcoming referendum are the best possible electoral system for New Zealand and in a future blog post I will reveal my own suggestion. Out of the options that we are currently offered, my choice would be MMP.
Democracy is about the voice of the people, about the public choosing who we want to lead us. Therefore, the more accurately that parliament reflects the peoples choice the better. Election proportional accuracy (or more specifically, disproportionality) is measured using the Gallagher index, the lower the score the better.
Mixed Member Proportional has been the electoral system in New Zealand since 1994 and will remain in use for at least another 3 years. MMP takes electorate elected MPs and offsets them with List MPs. Of all the options on offer, MMP is the most proportional and therefore the most fair for all voters. The Gallagher index of New Zealand’s 2005 election was only 1.11%.
First Past the Post was New Zealand’s electoral system for all general elections held from 1853 to 1993. With FPP you only vote for your electorate and government is dictated by the winners of the electorates. FPP is the least proportional system with the average Gallagher index of all New Zealand FPP elections 1946 - 1993 being 11.10%. I think that what scares people most about this referendum is the prospect of returning to FPP.
Preferential Voting is a slightly improved version of FPP, but not by much. Like FPP, parliament is the result of electorate winners however, instead of it being a simple process of voting, you order candidates based on preference. Within each electorate more people should be happy due to the weighted selection process, but it does not solve any of the problems of FPP on the nationwide level.
Supplementary Member is kind of like a mixture of FPP and MMP. In most ways, SM looks like MMP but the looks are deceiving. Unlike MMP, electorate seats aren’t taken into consideration and only your party vote influences the list MPs. Some of the positive points of MMP are swapped for the negative points of FPP but the problems of neither system are solved.
Single Transferable Vote is the most promising alternative to MMP (although still not as good as MMP). Like FPP, STV would be all about electorate voting except instead of smaller electorates each with a single winner there would be larger electorates with multiple winners. STV would increase proportional representation over MMP on a per electorate basis but ultimately would still be less representative nationally.
Of all systems on offer, I believe that MMP is the best option for New Zealand although there potentially are other options which won’t be on offer in the referendum. MMP allows for a greater proportional representation for all New Zealanders meaning that we all get a fairer say in how the country is governed.