MMP Farmer Freddy is confused.
"Pebbles", Freddy begins, "I know that our regular chats, appear in the farming section of that most excellent newspaper, the Taranaki Daily News, but do you think it would be ok if I asked you about something that wasn't directly about farming this week?"
"Sure, Dad" replies Pebbles. "What do you have in mind?"
"Well," says Freddy, "remember how there was that referendum at the last election about the electoral system? I know that most people voted to retain MMP, but wasn't there supposed to be a review of it, or something?"
"That's a great question Dad," says Pebbles, "and it's an important for everyone, including farmers. And, your timing's spot on, as the Electoral Commission has just asked for submissions on the review."
"Maybe you should start by reminding me how MMP works now," suggests Freddy.
"MMP stands for Mixed Member Proportional," explains Pebbles. "It's a voting system where everyone gets two votes. First, you get to vote for your local MP. The candidate who gets the most votes in each electorate is elected. These MPs are electorate MPs. Second, you get a party vote, which affects the total number of seats each party has in Parliament. Essentially, each party gets a share of what are called list seats, based on its share of the party vote. Those list MPs come from each party's ranked list, which is determined before the election."
"Right, that sounds simple enough," says Freddy. "So what's being reviewed?"
"One of the big questions that the Commission's going to look at is what percentage of the party vote a party must get before it gets any seats in Parliament," Pebbles replies. "At the moment, unless a party also wins an electorate seat, it needs to win 5% of the party vote to get any seats. That's around 100,000 votes. So one of the questions is whether 5% is the right threshold, or if it should be lower, say 4% or 3%."
"Another key question, that's related to that one, is whether a small party that wins a single electorate seat should also get extra list seats, in proportion to its share of the party vote, even if it doesn't win 5% of the party vote," she continues.
"You mean," clarifies Freddy, "should the 5% threshold (or the new threshold) apply regardless of whether a party wins an electorate seat?"
"Exactly," says Pebbles. "You've hit the nail on the head."
"Well, as long as we don't have the tail wagging the dog," observes Freddy. "What else is up for grabs?"
"Issues like whether electorate candidates should also be able to stand on a party's list, and how to deal with a situation where a party wins more electorate seats than it is entitled to, according to the share of the party vote. But really, it's about whatever you want to make a submission on," replies Pebbles. "The only things off the table for this review are the number of MPs, and the M?ori seats. But they will be considered as part of a broader review of the constitution."
"Crikey," replies Freddy, "what's that about?"
"I didn't realise you were so interested in New Zealand's constitution, Dad" laughs Pebbles. "But, that's a discussion for another day. Just remember though, if you want to make a submission on the MMP review, go to www.mmpreview.org.nz - you've got until early April."
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