Public submissions for changes to the MMP system are now open until the 31st May but the MacDoctor will not be bothering to make one. Besides my general laziness, there are two other reasons for this. The first is that the two most worthwhile changes – altering the number of seats in parliament and the provision of the Maori seats have been left out of the review. The former means that we can make no more than cosmetic changes to most aspects of MMP because reducing or expanding the number of MPs makes a great deal of difference to the argument around thresholds and ties the number of electorates to close to the current number. It would be difficult to increase the number of electorates, for instance, without reducing the proportionality of MMP.
The other obstruction, the inability to remove the Maori seats, means that increases to the threshold and scrapping the electorate lifeboat rule unfairly disadvantages those small parties not on the Maori roll. It also means that there will be a perpetual overhang in parliament.
Be that as it may, the second reason that the MacDoctor will not be bothering with a submission is that the outcome is already fairly certain. Sadly, for those advocating an increased threshold; this is not going to happen. The minor parties all have a vested interest in lowering the threshold. Left wingers will all want the threshold lowered, ostensibly because it makes MMP more democratic, but really because a lower threshold favours left wing politics. Witness that fact that National’s margin is quite tight despite having nearly a 20% lead on Labour.
I predict the final figure will either be a bland, do-nothing 4% or, possibly, 3% – giving the Conservatives a chance to be in parliament and ensuring Winston’s longevity.
I doubt that the electorate lifeboat will disappear, but there may be some rules around overt agreements between parties. As I have said, one can’t successfully argue the cessation of the electoral lifeboat rule while retaining the Maori seats, which are fought, essentially, on an FPP basis. This gives the Maori roll-based parties a greatly increased chance of gaining electorates compared to the other minor parties.
There is some move afoot to try to prevent candidates who fail to gain an electorate from coming in via the list. While this may be popular with the public, who mistakenly see it as some form of cheating, this is actually a monumentally stupid idea. All it will mean is that minor parties will cease to stand candidates at all and major parties will run the risk of losing decent candidates just because they lost a marginal seat. Bearing in mind the rather shallow political talent pool in this country, the result will be that parliament will become progressively dumber (hard to conceive, I know).