April 20, 2010
The people screamed
I was checking up on New Zealand’s history with proportional representation and came across Elections New Zealand’s history of MMP (Mixed Member Proportional, NZ’s current electoral system).
The whole thing is worth a read, especially in the context of the current British election (in “the 1978 and 1981 elections … the Labour opposition actually secured more votes overall than National, but the latter won more seats in Parliament and remained in government” – sound familiar?). It describes how popular anger forced the main parties to offer electoral reform against their will, and it’s pretty open about the teething troubles as New Zealand transitioned from FPP to MMP. But my favourite bit is this rhetorical flourish from the opposition leader of the day when the results of the electoral reform referendum became known:
“Although only 55% of electors took part, an overwhelming 85% voted to change their electoral system. In the second part of the poll, 70% favoured MMP. As Labour leader Mike Moore put it: ‘The people didn’t speak on Saturday. They screamed.’”
(I also like the publicity material from the first MMP election, especially the school poster which pleads, “Please read this. You’ll probably have to explain it to your parents.”)
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