Archive for the ‘Maori seats’ 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.

The overhang

March 10, 2008

As I’ve said in a few posts before the Maori Party could have a big overhang at the next Parliament, and this could be crucial when it comes to forming a government after the election. Today a new Roy Morgan poll came out, giving National 62 seats with 49.5%, and Labour 44 on 35%. Nothing exceptional about this poll. But say between now and the election there is a 2% swing to Labour from National. The new seat figures (asuming the Maori Party win all seven Maori seats) are:
National 59 (47.5%)
Labour 46 (37%)
Greens 9 (7%)
Maori Party 7 (2%, 3 overhang seats)
Act 1 (1 seat)
Progressives and United Future (0.5% and 1 seat each)
National with Act and United Future gather 49.5% of the vote and 61 seats (usually enough to govern). Labour with the Progressive Party, Greens and Maori Party gather 46.5% of the vote but 63 seats, 4 of which come from the overhang. Labour (barring an unlikely National-Maori Party deal) get to govern, despite being over 10% behind National, and the coalition as a whole 2% behind National.

This is a very real possibility. David Farrar has a good post on that possibility. The first consequence would be to undermine MMP. I would even go as far as saying it could lead to the end of MMP. It would fatally undermine the main reason for introducing MMP to make Parliament more proportional. The other consequence suggested by Farrar. A Labour government elected under such circumstances would have no electoral mandate, although Helen won’t care so long as she is in power.

The other possibility that Farrar states is the possiblity of major parties creating two seperate parties, an electorate vote party and party vote party, leading to supplementary member style electoral system of around 190 politicians. I find this possibility unlikley, and there is nothing stopping this happening today. Whats more likely is that if the Maori Party entrenches its hold on the Maori seats, which are gradually increased in number each census, and they continue to preform badly in the party vote, the Maori party could hold the balance of power in perpetuity. Not a good outcome for New Zealand.

Maori seats set to fall

March 3, 2008

In a a new poll today, the Maori Party could win all seven Maori seats. The Maori Party MPs all have big leads in the seats they hold, and in Ikaroa-Rawhiti 54% of voters prefer the (yet to be decided) Maori Party candidate over Parekura Horomia (who has only 31% support), with the (yet to be decided) Maori Party candidate beating Mahara Okeroa by 50% to 33% in Te Tai Tonga. Only in Tainui (now Hauraki-Waikato) is the result close, with Angeline Greensill (Maori Party) leading Nania Mahuta by 45% to 37%. Although the margin of error is high, there is a 95% probability that the Maori Party is leading in 6 of the 7 Maori seats, and 80% chance it is ahead in Hauraki-Waikato as well.

I am suspicious that the poll overrates the Maori Party’s support, with it (according to Farrar) showing the weighted party vote for all Maori being 33% for the Maori Party. Given that Maori make up close to 15% of the population, that is 5% of the party vote, but in the Maori Party is polling well below that in most polls.

The same poll in April 2005 predicted the Maori Party to get 4% of the party vote (it got 2.12%), and predicting the Maori Party to win 5 Maori seats (all the ones they did plus Te Tai Tonga). In the event the results in four of the six seats were outside the 95% confidence range (in every case the Labour candidate doing better than in the poll) but in the three seats where the results were within that range (Tainui, Waiariki and Ikaroa-Rawhiti) the poll was reasonably accurate, giving it a mixed record. Thus there can be no guarantee that the Maori Party will win six or seven seats, but Horomia and Okeroa should be worried.

The prospect of the Maori Party wining six or seven Maori seats raises the disturbing possibility of a significant overhang in the next Parliament, meaning National may need as many as 64 seats to govern (if the election result is the average of the polls here, and the Maori seats go the way of the Digipoll. This will make it more difficult for National to be able to govern alone, or form a coalition without the Maori Party. New Zealand can consider itself fortunate that there is not an eighth Maori seat, but in future elections there will be, and could be as many as ten by 2020. My worry is that if the maori seats are not abolished and many Maori continue to split their vote between Labour (party vote) and Maori Party (electorate vote), it could be impossible for National to govern without the Maori Party, allowing it to effectively veto any moves away from racial separatism.