Brian Edwards Media

Whinging and Moaning about MMP


Just read a piece by Bernard Hickey in Newsroom in which he takes to task people like me who aren’t entirely persuaded of the merits of MMP or entirely happy with the result it has delivered in this year’s general election.

I know Bernard and am something of a fan. But I share the disquiet that many New Zealanders feel when the party that is preferred by more Kiwis than any other fails to win the election. More importantly, I do not expect to be treated as a numbskull for feeling that disquiet. It is, at the very least, both understandable and defensible.

So I take strong exception to the final paragraph in Mr Hickey’s piece. He writes:

“Job done, and let’s hope that’s the end of the whole whinging and moaning about MMP for at least another three years.”

That “whinging and moaning” is what we call ‘democracy’, Bernard. Let’s hope we aren’t at the end of it yet.


  1. 1

    Sorry, it is not a reasonable thing to look at the Labour vote alone. That is FPP thinking. Those days have gone. The MMP way is to look at blocs of votes, Centre-right versus Centre-left. Given that National did not get anything like a majority of seats, they have zero mandate to govern. The centre-left (red-green-black) did get more than 50% of the seats. Therefore, they do have a mandate.

  2. O.k. Brian. Go for it. Explain your disquiet over National not getting to govern when it got 44.something % of the votes.

    • Because NZF got 7% and its leader failed to get elected in Northland and he’s now the Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Minister for Racing (for god’s sake) and the Minister of State Owned Enterprises. And three other NZF parliamentarians are also now Cabinet Ministers.

      Disquiet seems a gentle word for it.

  3. Most Kiwis understand this simple example on how we arrived at the election outcome.

    There’s one mince and cheese pie left in the shop it costs $5.

    Bill (English) has $4.50.

    Jacinda (Ardern) has $3.70.

    Winston (Peters) has 70c.

    James (Shaw) has 60c and David (Seymour) has 5c.

    No one has enough money to buy the pie by themselves but Jacinda, Winston and James put their money together and buy the pie.

    Bill gets no pie because he needed 50c but didn’t have any friends to help him pay for the pie.

    MMP appears to be finally working for the majority of voters. Please explain your “disquiet” about democracy in action.

    • New Zealand isn’t a pie, it is a country.
      It should not be haggled over and bought or sold.

      • Hi Richard,

        Given the result the NZ voters delivered, then what do you think should have happened?

        • The winner should’ve bought a sausage roll and a packet of chips….and got a squirt of sauce from one of the losers. Pretty much what we’ve ended up with, apart from the sauce.

    • Love your analogy about the mince and cheese pie, Kat. Fabulous.

      Total bollocks, of course, but it’s such a clever analogy I need a week or two to work out why.

      • Would that be working out that it is bollocks or clever……I have to admit it is not my analogy, Eva Allan I believe may have been the author. But it does have a popular theme to it.

      • It’s been all over every paper for a fortnight. It’s a total non-analogy, based on the fact that if you have enough losers willing to sleep with all their enemies, you somehow end up with a winner! Beats me, too.

    • 3.3

      Winnie ain’t much of a friend if he makes Jacinda give him nearly half the pie in return for his paltry contribution to the total cost!!

      • Exactly! In relation to my previous, not only is she happy to pay for the dinner and the theatre tickets as well as buy the condom, but she’s also willing to support the consequences if it all goes wrong! Every man’s perfect date…..

  4. “It is, at the very least, both understandable and defensible.”

    Yes, I understand it – but I don’t think you can defend the idea that a plurality=victory in a proportional representation system.

    You’ll be well aware – more than most people – that FPP elections have rendered results where the majority did not vote for the winning party. Especially in 1981. This is not the same circumstance.

    In this year’s election a majority of voters cast their ballots for parties that on Thursday will form the government. Ever since MMP began, we all knew that King, Queen and Jack could get together and beat Ace. It was with that in mind that the country re-endorsed the system in the 2011 referendum.

    So this is entirely legitimate and fulfills MMP’s goal of bridling the power of the government. Our country is unique in that we don’t have an upper chamber, or supreme law, or a head of state who vetoes legislation. Having 3 parties who must agree on legislation before bringing it to the floor is the next best thing.

    • Precisely Pete, I suspect it was Winston Peters being the King in that mix that has caused all the “disquiet”.

  5. How about “persistence unwillingness to accept the twice voted will of the NZ electorate” instead?

    Almost 51% of voters chose Labour, NZ First or the Greens for their party vote. National got much less.

    FPTP is the worst way to run democratic elections. Most voters are not represented when “majority” governments can be formed with less than 50 per cent of the vote.

    Is MMP perfect? No. Neither is STV or AV or combined MMP. But any of them are better than FPTP.

  6. Yeah. It´s something of a puzzle. National can´t form a government, despite gaining the most electoral support, because they didn´t get 51%; and no other party can form a government because they got less than National. So what to do? Do we be dispense with government and become the world´s first official anarchy, even though the the make-up of parliament reflects, pretty precisely the wishes of the electorate?

  7. Why such a fuss here in NZ? For some time now the largest party in the Australian Parliament – the Australian Labour Party – has been in opposition. Australian proportional representation is STV, not MMP, but the principle remains the same. If the largest party should form a government here, then the same should apply in Australia. Yet Australia has for some time been ruled by a minority Right-Wing coalition.
    When the Right wing does it, no complaints. But if the Left wing get to do it, straight away (ironically, first of all from Rupert Murdoch’s Right-wing press in Australia) come cries of ‘Coalition of Losers’ and subsequent accusations of injustice, unfairness, etc. Mainly, one might add, from the Right.
    Irony? Double standards?

    • Australia doesn’t use STV in the lower house: it’s Alternative vote. The Senate is sort of STV, since voters can either rank individual candidates OR submit a single, preferred party vote. Which can then be traded away by that party. The Aussie system is not a great example

    • 7.2

      Except the Liberal-National coalition in Oz is a long standing arrangement going back to the 1950s, if not earlier. Voters know exactly what they are voting for, unlike with this MMP farce where it seems it can be a toss up each occasion, depending on the whim of the players involved.

  8. Its David Seymour that annoys me, 0.5% of the vote and hes still there.

  9. National may have got 44% of the vote but being friendless was unable to form a coalition and govern. MMP Governments are all about coalitions. Being friendless is to put yourself in a perilous position. Even if National, as the highest polling party had been given “first bite at the cherry” they would have failed as they were arrogant enough to actively campaign against NZ First and thus alienate them.

  10. The election is over and dusted.

    The end result is no different to the last election led by National with the help of the gerrymandering of the Dunne Party and that other guy, the Act fellow, David Seymour.

    The left had to suck it up, just as National have to now.

    National should not have lost this election, but became so arrogant, told so many lies, as well as becoming lazy, if they could not see what they were doing to the wider economy, then they got what they deserve.

    As we are now seeing, there is far more to an economy than bragging about a surplus every second day.
    And at what cost ?

    Voters are not entirely stupid.

  11. I have no problems with three parties getting together to form a government, even though a lot of their pre-election statements made that very unlikely. What I disliked strongly was the way the New Govewrnment was announced. It wasn’t Ms Ardern coming on TV saying I have formed a “government”, it was Mr Peters announcing the results of his auction.
    However, on previous form, I would say history will judge National lost the battle but won the war. Unless a miracle happens, it is unlikely either the Greens or NZ First will survive the next election, especially if the government ends in disarray.

    • National lost the battle but won the war.

      Other way round my dear chap. National won the battle but lost the war.

      “…it is unlikely either the Greens or NZ First will survive the next election, especially if the government ends in disarray.

      Wishful thinking my dear chap. It is likely the Labour/NZ First/Green government will last the next 2 terms at least. In fact it will probably last 3 terms or longer. :)

  12. Agree Anne. As Patrick Gower said, the problem for National now is they have no friends………….

  13. National got 44% of the vote. So what? It wasn’t over 50%.

    Let’s say National should have been “allowed” to try to form a government first. They would have gone to NZ First and tried to negotiate. But there would have been nothing to stop NZ First going to Labour and the Greens to see what the alternative was.

    Oh, wait, that’s pretty much what happened.

    Also National could have gone to the Greens with a proposal, but they didn’t, instead letting all their commentators and supporters trash the Greens for not going to National. But it was up to the Nats to put forward policies that the Greens might have accepted. Granted, they would have had to have been pretty good policies, with the Nats accepting major changes to the way they ran things, but THEY DIDN’T EVEN TRY. And blamed the Greens for it.

    At the end of the day, 44% is not 51%. And if you campaign like it’s FPP (ie “cut out the middle man”) in an MMP environment, then you’re probably going to lose. It was a strategy that didn’t work Because you’ve tried to cut out all the middle men.

    Three parties campaigned for change. The majority of voters got what they wanted. Feel disquiet if you like, Brian, but your kind of arrogance – and that of the National Party – is exactly what most of us wanted to get rid of. And we did.

  14. It’s funny to hear the lefty idiots lecture us on how we don’t understand MMP, or that we can’t do maths. And it’s even funnier when you realise that a lot of these same dills were complaining about Trump winning the American election despite losing the popular vote to HRC!

  15. politics is a numbers game. It always has been and always will be.

    So it’s a little surprising to some of the arguments that have been posited about the election result.

    61 is the magic number to pass legislation and is widely accepted as such yet I don’t recall similar arguments being aired when opposition parties have mustered the numbers to get Members’ bills over the line in face of Government opposition.

    Did the Bills put forward by Jan Logie and Andrew Little lack moral authority because they were passed in such a way and, if so, where was the outcry at the time?

  16. Problem with mmp we vote for a parliament not a government, if parties had to declare there preferred coalitions before voting it would be a fairer system , winston played the electorate and choose the government All the vote told us the 46pc of voters wanted national to govern, 35pc labour 7pc greens and 7pc nzf iIt did not tell us that the majority of nz wanted a lab green nzf coalition, there’s the problem