National challenged to scrap coat-tailing

David Cunliffe
David Cunliffe
A Party Bill calling for the end of the coat-tailing provision in New Zealand's MMP electoral system has been drawn from the ballot, adding spice to an already fiery election year.

Labour leader David Cunliffe told the Otago Daily Times the Bill meant the process was in the hands of the National-led Government and he was adamant the legislation could be passed before the election.

University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards was horrified by the thought the Bill could be pushed through before the election on September 20.

''Constitutionally, it would be an outrage if this was done in the next few months. David Cunliffe needs to withdraw the Bill, or make it clear it won't be pushed through before the election.

''It will create more cynicism and rebound on Labour, as it will be seen to be skewing legislation to its own electoral ends.''

The convention was for constitutional changes to be made in non-election years.

Dr Edwards was confident Labour could not generate the numbers needed to get the Bill passed, as the Greens did not support the legislation.

Bryce Edwards
Bryce Edwards
The Bill would see parties which won an electorate seat prevented from bringing others into Parliament on the winner's ''coat-tails''. Act, New Zealand First and United Future have all brought MPs into Parliament on the back of their respective leaders' winning electorates.

The latest possibility comes from the deal stitched up last week by Mana and the Internet Party.

If Te Tai Tokerau leader Hone Harawira retains the seat, and the Internet Mana receives 1.2% of the vote, the leader of the Internet Party, former Alliance MP Laila Harre, will enter Parliament on Mr Harawira's coat-tails.

The Mana and Internet parties are expected to support the formation of a left-wing government led by Labour.

Asked whether he was harming his own chances with the campaign to remove the coat-tail provision, Mr Cunliffe said the public had made it clear the provision was unpopular.

The Electoral Commission recommended a reduction in the MMP threshold from 5% to 4% and strongly recommended the one-seat threshold be abolished. The Government rejected the recommendations.

''This rule has been used by the Right to win elections. We are taking a principled stand to ensure it won't be used by the Left,'' Mr Cunliffe said.

Changing the law would require a 75% majority in the House, something which could be achieved by Labour joining National in voting for its implementation, Mr Cunliffe said.

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