• Hans Grueber was a campaigner for MMP at the 1992-93 referendums.

This year's election did not produce a Prime Minister on the night. Many people seem to be frustrated about that. How can the country in the age of instant gratification be expected to wait a few weeks for the new government to be formed?

Are we 21 years after the first MMP election still in a first-past-the-past (FPP) mode? The obvious misconceptions seem to have two reasons.

First, Many "ordinary" people don't seem to fully understand how a proportional electoral system works.


New Zealanders have by now pretty well worked out the difference between their two votes and that the party vote is more important as this decides the overall composition of Parliament and as a consequence the government. However, the mechanism how the parties in Parliament decide who will form the government is often misunderstood.

Some think the party with the most votes and seats should be able to form the government. Anything else they think is undemocratic especially when a much smaller party is in a position to decide the outcome and might not choose the biggest party.

However, the whole purpose of a proportional system like MMP is that the government needs the support of the majority of the house, which represents the majority of the voters, unlike FPP where you could have a majority in the house with only 35 per cent of the vote.

It does not matter who is the strongest party if it does not get the majority of the votes and seats. In this election National on preliminary results got (only) 46 per cent of the votes, well shy of a majority and therefore has no mandate to govern.

It does not matter if the majority is reached by one, two, three or any number of parties as long as they together represent the majority of the voters. That is why a proportional system is regarded as the most democratic. Majority rules.

There is nothing undemocratic about the fact that the voters have decided not to give one party an absolute majority but spread their votes among four parties in the clear expectation that these parties would have to compromise and work together to form a coalition to reach a majority in Parliament.

The other reason for misconceptions looks more like deliberate misinformation by people who want to achieve their favourite outcome.

The "moral authority" of the biggest party is one of those notions spread by people who would like to see a National government returned. There is no moral authority whatsoever, all that counts are numbers, which have to add up to the magic number of 61, the majority in the house.


As for a "constitutional convention" that the biggest party should have the first crack at negotiating a coalition deal, New Zealand does not have a (written) constitution. If in the past the party with the most votes and seats formed the government it is purely the result of it having a better chance of reaching the magic number of 61.

It is however perfectly fine and democratic if that number is reached by other parties without the biggest party especially when two of them declared from the outset that they would work together.

Another fake argument is the notion that a two party coalition would be so much better and easier and stable than a three party government. The people who come up with this nonsense forget to remind us that we just had a stable National led government, which was in fact a coalition of four parties.

Commentators are pushing the other numerical option to keep National in government with the support of the Greens. They point to Germany, the other MMP country. It held elections on the same weekend.

There is indeed talk about Angela Merkel's CDU, the equivalent of our National Party, forming a government including the Green Party. However, the circumstances could not be more different.

Her former coalition partner, Social Democrats, received 20 per cent and have decided to go into opposition, which for various reasons they had to do. This has left Merkel with only one viable option, which includes the Green Party.

Nobody wants to deal with the far right neo-Nazis (AfD) nor the far left ex-communists (Die Linke). However if the Green Party is to be part of the next German government, which is far from certain, it would be rather involuntary.

In summery there are no valid moral, constitutional or electoral arguments for Winston to turn right rather than left. All they do is show the bias of the people making them.