MMP has enjoyed more than a two-decade tenure as New Zealand’s voting system. But three months out from the general election, cracks are showing. Cassandra Mason investigates the prides and pitfalls of MMP and whether there’s room for change. New Zealand’s mixed member proportional system (MMP) ousted first past the post (FPP) when it was voted in in 1993. The change answered calls from an increasingly diverse New Zealand that Parliament more closely resemble its population. With September’s election on the horizon, the system’s more controversial characteristics are fuelling debate. Many maintain that MMP is the only truly democratic way to represent a population, while critics say it gives minor parties disproportionate power and influence, putting politics before people. So who’s right?
MMP gives voters two votes – one for their preferred political party, and the other for the MP they want to represent their electorate.
Parties have to get a minimum of five per cent of the vote or win at least one electorate seat to get its share of seats in Parliament.
Parties rarely win enough votes to govern alone, and coalitions are a common feature of New Zealand governments.
The result is a Parliament in which a party’s share of seats largely reflects its proportion of the national vote.
Until MMP was voted in in 1993, Kiwis had one vote under FPP – a system where candidates with the most votes won, regardless of whether they had 50 per cent.
Major parties tended to win a larger proportion of Parliamentary seats than their share of votes, while smaller parties were largely sidelined.