Wednesday, 23 November 2011


A New Zealand election is coming up and I'm struggling to figure out who to vote for.

I live in the Epsom electorate, where National is trying to leverage our MMP system by encouraging people to vote for the righter-wing ACT candidate instead of their own. (Someone put up a billboard for the National candidate and his own team took it down!) If the ACT candidate is elected, ACT will get Parliamentary representation proportional to their party vote even if their party vote is under the normal 5% threshold. Those ACT MPs will have to ally with National, boosting National's chances of forming a government. Although I like the MMP system in general, I dislike this kind of gamesmanship so I'll try to make it fail by tactically voting for the National candidate. Current polls suggest this is going to work.

Having become politically aware during the Muldoon years under the first-past-the-post system, in elections where National got the majority of seats with a smaller popular vote than Labour, I have no desire to return to that system. I also think that the influence of third parties has mostly been beneficial under MMP. The alternative proportional systems on offer are not clearly better than MMP IMHO. So I'll vote to keep MMP.

My difficulty is in assigning my party vote, which is what really matters. Generally I think private enterprise works better than central planning, incentives work better than handouts, and it's better for people to take responsibility for themselves than look to governments to solve their problems. So I'd veer right, but right-wing politics tends to attract people who for selfish reasons promote --- or at least do not resist --- social injustice and unbridled corporate power. So ... hmm.

I tend to think that when policy differences are relatively small, as they tend to be in New Zealand, efficiency and sensible decision-making trump policy details. So give me capable, results-oriented government that's willing to choose the approach that works best regardless of whether it fits some preconceived ideology.

In this particular election I like some policies from both major parties, and dislike others. I particularly dislike Labour's promise to repeal the 90-day trial period for new employees --- that helps Mozilla to hire people we otherwise couldn't. On the other hand, I like Labour's plans to raise the retirement age and introduce a capital gains tax. What do do...

Unfortunately this post hasn't helped me make up my mind. It was worth a try!


  1. I think this is a common problem around the world, I fall mostly in the same boat as you do and wonder why there are usually two bad choices to choose from.

  2. So you like MMP, but dislike people giving their two votes to different parties.

    Head scratching here...

    I'm also going to split my vote, and will do exactly the opposite. Vote for the National guy with my electoral vote.

  3. I never said I dislike splitting my votes.

  4. Beware the TLAs! For others reading along, MMP = "Mixed Member Proportional representation" , I think "in which each elector would get two votes, one for an electorate [Member of Parliament] and one for a party."

  5. National are the ones that put guilt by accusation and Internet disconnections into law, though, so they definitely wouldn't get my vote if I could actually vote here.

  6. I'm not confident Labour would have resisted that pressure any more than National did.

  7. The MMP referendum does seem to be a little unfortunate. Having learnt about alternative systems when the UK had their referendum on switching to AV from FPTP, it was a bit disappointing to see the range of alternatives proposed in the NZ referendum doesn't offer another good proportional system.
    Something like AV+ would be my pick - basically a mix of preferential vote (AV / what australia has) and MMP.

    I've noticed 3 month trials seem to be the norm here in the UK, and when used properly definitely seem to be a good thing.

  8. Isn't the gamesmanship issue in your electorate the result of the rule that says if one member is elected then the 5% threshold gets thrown out? Seems like they should just get one member elected, and it would solve that particular problem.

    (I'm also not a big fan of hard thresholds; I'd rather see a linear ramp that hits 0 at somewhere more than 0% of the vote.)

    Then again, here in the USA we're probably stuck with our current system for the indefinite future. But I like the idea of MMP after having talked to various people about it... at least MMP that doesn't make it *too* easy for lots of tiny parties to get elected.

  9. "Seems like they should just get one member elected, and it would solve that particular problem."

    Yes, I agree that change would be an improvement.