Understanding MMP

  • fatweb
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  • October 2, 2023
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Kiwis will hit the polls for the 2020 general election from October 2 to election day October 14, deciding the next New Zealand government.

New Zealand uses an MMP voting system – standing for mixed-member proportional – but how exactly does it work come election day?

The MMP system gives Kiwis two votes. The first, an electorate vote which is used to decide which politician will represent you locally. The candidate who gets the most votes in an electorate wins it for their party, hence the geographical maps that shine in regional colours in post-election media coverage.

The second vote the MMP system gives Kiwis is the party vote. Here New Zealanders vote for which party they want to govern the country overall, beyond just your local electorate. How many members each party can bring with them into Parliament off their ‘party lists’ is determined by their share of the party vote.

The person you vote for with your electorate vote doesn’t need to be from the party who gets your party vote, but you can do that as well if you wish.

There are 120 Members of Parliament but only 72 electorates, and so the 48 remaining positions are determined by the party vote. The party list is a ranking of a political party’s candidates. Electorate MPs will certainly sit in Parliament, followed by party list MPs until the seats are filled. Overall, the number of MPs a party has in Parliament will roughly equate to their share of the party vote for that election.

If a candidate wins an electorate, they are certain to have a seat in Parliament, so that is the easiest way for a party to be represented. The next way is to get at least 5% of the party vote.

ACT Party leader David Seymour has notably sat in Parliament in past after winning the Epsom electorate despite ACT receiving 5% of the party vote.

Sometimes Parliament will have overhang seats, which occurs when a party wins more electorates than their party vote signals. The number of MPs is extended beyond 120 in turn, and other party seat numbers may be adjusted to ensure the fairest representation of political parties in Parliament.

It takes a majority to form a government, so 61 or more seats. Most of the time political parties will have to form coalitions to reach this magic number, where two or more parties must come together to form a government. Parties might make confidence and supply agreements too, where one party agrees to support another on certain issues and laws that are voted on in Parliament.

There are 72 electorates in New Zealand for election voting. 65 are general electorates and seven are Māori electorates. Māori voters must decide three months prior to the election which electorate they vote in. Everyone must vote in the electorate where their registered home address is, per the Electoral Commission.

Visit https://vote.nz/ for more information on the upcoming election.