Will Gareth Morgan’s TOP party make the threshold?

On Stuff (stuff.co.nz) 1 July 2017 there was an item about TOP party created by Gareth Morgan.

A major theme of the article is that this party may not make the 5% threshold for gaining seats in Parliament.  If the party does not make the threshold, the effect will be to take votes away from other parties.

The difference between making the threshold or not could decide the government.  We have already had parties from right and left gain more than 4% of the party vote, but fail to pass the 5% threshold.  So far these situations have not had a huge effect.

But imagine a situation where one party (or grouping) (‘group A’) receives 48% of the vote, another (‘group B’) 47%, and a small party (‘Party C’) 5%.  But did that small party receive 4.99% or 5.00001%.

Under present rules, the answer to that question (insignificant as it may seem), can change the government.    If it was 4.99% or less for party C, group A can form a government with a 48% to 47% majority. If party C made 5.00001%, it can join with group B to form a government with a 52% to 48% majority.

This situation, eminently possible,  would have all sorts of undesirable effects:

  • There might need to be detailed analysis of every vote that might have been for party C, to ensure that it really was valid or invalid.
  • If there is any kind of problem with votes having been lost, or people not having been able to vote, then the result would hang in the balance until the situation was resolved.
  • Supporters of party C and group B would rightly feel aggrieved that an arbitrary threshold denied them the chance of forming a government.
  • Supporters of small parties would be even more reluctant to support them.

And just the possibility of this kind of result puts many people off voting for small parties.    And that defeats much of the purpose of MMP.   That is that small parties be able to grow, and when they have adequate support have representation in Parliament.

A solution to this was proposed by at least three submitters to the 2012 MMP review.  The solution seems, unfortunately, not to have been seriously considered.  It was mentioned briefly in the final report, hidden away under a heading related to different ways of selecting electorate MPs.

These submitters suggested that voters be given a second choice of party.  There would be two column on the party voting form, one for first choice party, and one for second choice.    Votes with a first choice of a party that fails to make threshold, would instead be given to the second choice party.

Most people voting for a party at risk, would give their second choice to a larger party more likely to make the threshold.

Thus the vast majority of votes would count in the final proportionality of Parliament.

Under the present system 10 to 15% of votes can be wasted.  Under the proposed two choice system, this percentage could drop almost to zero.

More information will be going up on this site in coming days and weeks.





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