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March 1, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

A Daunting dearth of democratic decisions

MMP referendum; paper, scissors, rock not included

The future of the New Zealand voting system will be decided next year, following the announcement of a nation-wide referendum.

New Zealanders will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to retain the Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) system, which has been in effect since 1996.

Justice Minister Simon Power recently released details of the two-part referendum. The first part asks voters if they wish to retain the current MMP system. The second part asks voters to choose between four alternatives, should MMP be replaced.

The four alternatives include First Past the Post, which was New Zealand’s electoral system up until 1996. Voters also have the options of a Preferential Voting, Supplementary Member or Single Transferable Voting systems.

If the majority of voters opt for a change in the electoral system, a further binding referendum will be held alongside the 2014 election, asking voters to choose between MMP and their preferred alternative.

Power says five general elections have now been held under MMP and “it’s timely to consider how the voting system is working”.

“If there is support to retain MMP as a voting system, there will be a review to see how MMP can be improved.”

Peter Shirtcliffe, who has campaigned against MMP told the New Zealand Herald that under the current system “the people who get into parliament aren’t accountable”.

Campaign for MMP spokeswoman Sandra Grey told the New Zealand Herald “if you get a quarter of the vote, you should get a quarter of the seats. Most New Zealanders want to see that, and that’s something we think is very important.”

Grey has also voiced concerns over the lack of a spending cap on campaigners, “allowing the wealthy to have a stronger voice than the ordinary New Zealander”.

Power announced there will be no limit on what campaign groups can spend, however those exceeding the $12,000 threshold will be required to register with the Electoral Commission.

Following the debacle surrounding the recent anti-smacking referendum, there is also unease over the estimated costs of the MMP referendum. Projections exceed $10.9 million, needed to finance a public information campaign, and administer the vote.


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