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Sunday, 24 March 2019 11:10 pm

Kiwis’ doubts about MMP are not matched by Germany

Nov 18th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Article, Opinion

MMP can be blamed for “encouraging the creation of a host of new parties” (‘More German and less fun’, Dominion Post), but the Germans had good reason to introduce their voting system and it remains dear to their hearts, as visiting journalism student SABRINA DANKEL reports:
The MMP system might not be the best solution for New Zealand’s elections, but it definitively is for Germany.
German elections are based on a system introduced at the first post-World War II election of the German Bundestag in 1949.
With this system – a result of the painful transition back to self-government after defeat by the Allies – Germans sought to prevent one person from gaining executive, legislative and judicial power as had happened in the Third Reich.
Post-war Germany was a chaotic, unco-ordinated state the Allies tried to lead back to democracy. In 1949, a system was needed to give the people a feeling of safety and to restore democracy. 
German MMP has been refined since then and, like New Zealand’s, offers two votes – one for the candidate and one for party.
MMP is often seen risking party fragmentation in parliament. To reduce that risk, Germany and New Zealand have a 5% threshold parties must pass before getting members into parliament.
Unlike the German system, New Zealand’s MMP did not emerge from dramatic effort to establish new administration and governance. Rather, was the outcome of 1996 electoral law reform after a period of lobbying for change from “first past the post” or FPP, a system allowing one party to gain power without a majority of votes.
There are now calls for a return to FPP. For many voters, MMP seems to renege on what the voters expected from the new system in 1996.
The disproportion of small parties’ importance in comparison to the power of big parties and their better chances of influence, particularly in coalitions, is criticised by more and more Kiwis.
But this is precisely why Germany went down this path. Every party vote influences the formation of the parliament similarly, and changing electoral boundaries (something politicians were tempted to do to gain an advantage) has no impact on that.
At the time when MMP was adopted in Germany, a system was needed allowing small parties to gain political power and to take part in coalitions.
Even though it might be too early to form an opinion about whether introducing MMP was the right decision for New Zealand’s political system, Germany’s MMP has had enough time to prove its efficiency.
The Germans are happy with their MMP system and with the way of forming a new government by incorporating small parties and forming coalitions.


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