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How New Zealand Got PR and How it has Gone

July 5, 2017

At the first meeting of Make Votes Matter in Rural Dorset on 27th June I was asked how New Zealand, which had used FPTP up until the 1990s, managed to achieve reform. I was a bit vague. I hope this puts things right, see, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_reform_in_New_Zealand. In short:

A Royal Commission was appointed in 1985 which recommended MMP with a single top up area encompassing the whole country and a total of 120 MPs (up from 99 under FPTP).

In 1992 there was a non binding referendum at which 85% of people voted for change, and of the four systems on offer 65% voted for MMP, 16% for STV, 6% for PV and 5% for Supplementary Vote.

In 1993 a 2nd binding referendum was held to choose between MMP and retaining FPTP. This was much harder fought. The opposition got organised and ‘project fear’ ruled. The vote was 54% for MMP and 46% to retain FPTP. A pro reformer said, “Had the referendum been held a week earlier I believe we would have lost.”

The first election was held in 1996 in which there were 65 electorate seats and 55 party list top up seats. The proportions have varied over time for reasons I do not understand. On three occasions a party (I think the Māori Party on each occasion) won more constituency seats than the total they were entitled to on the basis of the party vote. This is called ‘overhang’. The no. of seats was increased in order to restore proportionality ( by 1 in two cases and 2 in the other).

A further referendum was held in 2011. 58% voted to retain MMP and 42% to change.

A review carried out by the Electoral Commission in 2012 recommended a fixed ratio of 72 electorate seats to 48 party seats. However in 2014 the ration was 71 to 50 (including one overhang seat).

Read the details at the above link and at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_New_Zealand

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