Archive for the ‘Demographics’ category

Demography and the future of MMP

April 14, 2008

Peter Dunne has released a good press release, which looks at the future of MMP in New Zealand. It confirms what I thought for some time- demography would doom MMP, eventually turning it into a supplementary voting system.

The number of seats in Parliament is fixed at 120 (but goes above this when overhangs occur). But there is no fixed number of electorate seats. There are 16 general seats allocated for the South Island (it was 25 under FPP), and the number of North Island general seats is calculated, by working out how many times the population of the North Island general role is to one sixtenth of the South Island General role (i.e. if the North Island general role has 47 people to each 16 on the South Island general role, there will be 47 North Island general seats, as is currently the case). The number of Maori seats are calculated in a similar way.

The problem is that the population of the North Island is increasing faster (both in numerical and percentage terms) than the population of the South Island, thus leading to more general electorates, which have increased from 60 in 1996 when MMP was first introduced, to 63 now. Also significent is that the number of Maori seats has increased from 5 to 7, and is likely to increase to 8 or 9 in 2012 (they narrowly missed out on a eigth seat this time) thanks to increasing number of Maori choosing to be on the Maori role instead of the general role. The increased number of electorates, means fewer list MPs (as the number of MPs is fixed at 120, barring overhang seats).

Now United Future has calculated based on these trends, and new population projections, that in 2026 we will have at least 10 Maori seats (sounds reasonable to me), and up to 97 general seats (sounds a little to high for me, 80 would be a more realistic figure, but I haven’t seen the data). This leaves us with only 13 list MPs. Of course we will end up with more than 13 list MPs, we will just have lots of overhang seats, distorting the proportionality of MMP. Eventually voters will get wise to the idea that giving a Party vote to Labour or National no longer increases the number of seats these parties recieve, so will give it to other right-wing or left wing parties, leading to (if nothing is done) a supplementary membership style system, with far more MPs than currently. When is a¬†good question, and will ultimately depend on demographics, and how many voters choose the Maori role (if it remains), and I am sceptical of the 97 general electorates by 2026 theory, but it is an issue of when, not if.

United Futures proposed solution is abolishing the Maori seats. This would certainly help, probably setting the problem back a decade or more. But as long as the population of the North Island increases faster than that of the South Island, the basic problem will remain, and the demographic clock over MMPs future will continue to tick. A much more sensible long term solution is to fix the number of electorate MPs at 75, and number of list MPs at 75 (with no Maori seats, which I oppose in principle). This will involve increasing Parliament to 150 MPs, but this is a lot smaller than the size Parliament could eventually become.

Also of note in the press release is that our total population is growing fast- it is projected to be over 5 and a half million people in 2026, growing by a third in twenty years. And many of the New New Zealanders will be Asian (take that Peter Brown), with Asians coming to make up 14.2% of our population. The Maori population, is the only one which can not grow by immigration, but will still grow thanks to high birth rates to 14.7%, up only 0.1% from where it is today. And shortly after 2026 there will be more Maori than Asian New Zealanders. Maori loosing their biggest minority status will definately have an impact on race relations, although what remains to be seen. What could have a bigger impact is, if thanks to immigration, Maori begin to fall as a proportion of the population. One group that will almost definately fall as a proportion of the population is NZ Europeans/ Pakeha, although they will still remain a majority, could be a 60% one instead of a 75% or so one. This too will have an imapct, which remains to be seen.