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The myth of the Kiwi Utopia

New Zealand is held up as an example of the success of MMP by its proponents, but a quick look at the country with less area than the Ontario riding of Kenora-Rainy River, with a population a little less than that of the GTA, shows that the New Zealand Utopia promise of the Ontario MMP propagandists is far off the mark.

Just last week, New Zealand Central District police commander Mark Lammas is quoted as saying:

"MMP hasn't made any observable change in opposition parties.

"A lot of people hoped that the system would bring a greater degree of consensus but until the politicians stop treating each other so badly it's unlikely the public sector will fare any better."

Even the Prime Minister is frustrated by the system. In an interview with Guyon Espiner, Prime Minister Helen Clark says, "Well see here we're coming to one of the weaknesses in the MMP system that it does become quite hard for tough decisions to be taken which may be in the public interest, and there tends not to be any majority for trying to reinforce monetary policy with certain tools." Prompted, she continues, "As I say with MMP and a very fractured parliament like this it's not easy to get tough decisions taken by parliament."

What we learn observing New Zealand is that while some parties benefit from Mixed Member Proportional, they gain at the expense of the country as a whole. No tangible benefits have come to New Zealand where the police chief says things are no better off and even the Prime Minister says issues in the public interest cannot be solved within the system.

At least MMP improves voter participation and involvement, right?

Well, not exactly.

While New Zealand's voter turnout numbers put all of North America to shame, they show a massive and significant drop-off after the introduction of MMP. In 1984, under FPTP, voter turnout was 89%. 18 years later with MMP in place and no longer a novelty, the voter participation rate sank to the lowest in the country's history, with just 72.5% showing up to vote in 2002.

When MMP supporters blather about the success of MMP in New Zealand, what are they smoking?

MMP has reduced the effectiveness of the New Zealand government, according to the country's Prime Minister.

MMP has not improved the cultural behaviour of politicians in the New Zealand government, according to the country's Central District police commander.

MMP has resulted in a massive reduction in voter participation in New Zealand elections, according to the country's own government information.

What, exactly, does MMP meaningfully improve in New Zealand? Why is it held up as an example of the success of MMP for Ontario?

Posted at 07:58 on August 13, 2007

This entry has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

MMP change for the sake of change? | elections reform | Ten lies about MMP revisited

Annie writes at Mon Aug 13 14:14:05 2007...

We write to people in new Zealand and they still do not like Proportional rep. The government people never listen enough

Annie writes at Mon Aug 13 15:21:08 2007...

I should say New zealand does not have MMP. They have straight Proportional Representation.

cdlu writes at Mon Aug 13 16:04:01 2007...


New Zealand most definitely has MMP.

John writes at Tue Aug 28 03:00:59 2007...

Kia Ora,

As a citizen of NZ I must say that you overlook some key factors in your above analysis of MMP in my country.

1. MMP was only introduced after a referendum was held, the result of which was that New Zealanders wanted a change in how we elected our representatives.

2. FPTP was not a system where by the majority of NZ society was represented. Parties could receive significant percentages of the vote sometimes upward of 10% and yet not get any seats in parliament. MMP addresses this problem, whereby if you receive over 5% of the vote or 1 electorate seat your party will be represented. What this means is that a larger proportion of NZ is represented and the larger parties are forced to work with the minor parties, increasing the accountability of government and ensuring that a wide range of views are represented.

3. The assertion that the Govt. never listens...people will always say that no matter the form of government.

4. The statement that, "MMP has reduced the effectiveness of the New Zealand government, according to the country's Prime Minister." Is simply not a credible one, we can all cut and paste but in reality our Prime Minister, remains one of the most influential supporter of MMP. This is not to say that she is not frustrated with the current nature of our Parliament whereby the Govt. holds a very slim majority of one or two seats and relies heavily upon minor parties to move legislation through the house.

As you can probably tell, I support our move to MMP. The drop in voter turnout is less a reflection of the change in systems and more I believe to do with the general lack of civic involvement of young people, who are simply not voting. If you have any other questions, on the matter I would be happy to help,

nga mihi,


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