MMP increases representation in Parliament

And accountability ensures compliance

Fourth in a series of Six Parts

Venkat Raman

One of the most important attributes of Parliamentary system of democracy is representation of minorities and ensuring that their voice is heard in the Debating Chamber of Parliament.

Many democracies follow the ‘Bicameral System,’ which accounts for two houses of Parliament- one comprising members elected directly by the people and the other nominated members retiring after a specified term but on a renewal basis.

Two houses in one

New Zealand has a single chamber of Parliament which consists of the House of Representatives, which generally has 120 MPs, and the Governor-General (who does not personally attend the House).  The House is elected for a maximum three-year term using the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.

Every New Zealand citizen who is enrolled as an elector is eligible to be a candidate for election as an MP.

The Government is accountable to Parliament for its actions and policies.

Ministers are therefore answerable to Parliament for their own actions and policies and for the actions and policies of the departments and state agencies for which they are responsible.

Most ministers are members of cabinet, which is the main decision-making body of the Government.  Much of Parliament’s scrutiny role is carried out by Select Committees.

New Zealand adopted the ‘Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) System’ in 1996, replacing the earlier ‘First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system.

The MMP system has been used in Germany for more than 60 years and is also in practice in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

Political scientists have classified MMP as an example of a two-tier compensatory proportional representation voting system.

Under MMP, each voter gets two votes on the same ballot paper.

The first vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the Party Vote and largely decides the total number of seats each political party gets in Parliament.

The second vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the Electorate Vote.

Electorate Seats

The Member of Parliament for an electoral district is the candidate who wins more votes than any other candidate. He or she does not need to win more than half the votes cast.  Under the MMP electoral system, MPs for the electoral districts are elected in the same way as they would be under the FPTP electoral system.

Party List Seats

The number of Party votes won by each registered Party which has submitted a Party List to the Electoral Commission is used to decide how many seats overall each party will have in Parliament. If, for example, the Party vote for ‘Party X’ (just an example) entitled it to a total of 54 seats in Parliament and it won 40 electorate candidate seats, it would gain 14 further seats which would be drawn from the Party List of ‘Party X.’

Candidates may stand for Parliament both in an electoral district and on their Party’s List.  As a result, the first 14 candidates on the ‘Party X’ rank-ordered Party List who had not been elected to Parliament to represent an electoral district would be declared elected as Party List MPs.

Citizens and permanent residents who are aged 18 years and over are required to enroll to vote.  Voting is not compulsory.

Unwritten Constitution

New Zealand has an unwritten constitution and is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth II, is the Head of State. The Queen’s Representative in New Zealand is the Governor-General who has all the powers of the Queen in relation to this country.

New Zealand also has sub-national elected government bodies including territorial local authorities, district health boards, and school boards of trustees.

Brought to you by Electoral Commission

Voting opens in New Zealand on Monday, September 11, 2017 and continues until Election Day on Saturday, September 23, 2017. Only those correctly enrolled before Election Day will be able to vote.

Information about where and when to vote will be available from August 30, 2017 at www.elections.org.nz or by calling 0800-367656. It will also be included in the EasyVote packs that will be sent to all enrolled voters at the beginning of the voting period.

Model for Good Governance

Former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand believes that New Zealand is model for transparency and good governance.

“The distinction sits at the centre of how New Zealand works. The people elect who are to be the Parliamentarians every three years. A majority of those elected form the Government. The Government then introduces and passes legislation according to policies it has defined, making new laws.  The Ministries and Department comprise civil servants who implement the policies delivering necessary resources and services.  The judiciary interpret the laws and deal with people allegedly in breach in the courts,” he said, speaking at the Seventh Annual Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture held at Alexandra Park, Greenlane, Auckland on Monday, August 7, 2017.  

Important Link

“Then there is an important linkage which remains between the people and Parliament and the actions of the government administration. Our country has a small number of Officers of Parliament, appointed not by the Government of the day but also by Parliament itself – for instance, the Ombudsmen and the Controller & Auditor-General. These officials can function in the event of a complaint of wrongdoing or unfairness at the request of a citizen or on their own motion.  So, the government may make and operate laws and offices such as the Auditor-General ensure that the process or manner of operation is appropriate.

“It is well known that New Zealand has developed, over time, an internationally respected reputation for accountability and transparency of institutions which has ensured, for example, a prominent and positive placement on the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, which has been published since 1993.  For a relatively small country, comprising 268,000 square kilometres and housing nearly 4.7 million people with a small economy, and a GDP generating $240 billion, New Zealand has required continued activity by a number of players.  An Important contributor in that regard is the guarantee of objective oversight by the Office of the Auditor-General,” he said.

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