I agree with Bryce Edwards, Rob Salmond, Idiot/Savant, Graeme Edgeler (and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), and Bomber Bradbury. Whether it’s 5% or 4%, the party vote threshold is as anti-democratic as the Electoral Commission itself, which didn’t listen to most of us (or at least the most evidence-based and least reactionary of us) who suggested a low threshold or none at all.
The threshold is about fear of democracy rather than strengthening democracy. The threshold is the main reason MMP has failed to properly break us out of two-party thinking, and the Electoral Commission’s proposed changes are going to make matters worse rather than better for everyone apart from the two biggest parties.
Let’s not forget that only three parties can actually guarantee more than 4% of the vote (and the Greens have only recently joined that select group). The rest of the parties are automatically disadvantaged because potential voters are scared their vote will be wasted.
Obviously the parties with more votes should have more voice than those with less votes. But that’s why National has 59 voices and votes and Mana, ACT and United Future only have one each. We don’t need to make the big parties even more dominant, and that’s what the threshold does.
The coat-tailing rule has been the only counter-balance to the threshold. It’s weird and unfair, and as the Commission point out, most submitters saw this. But it’s only unfair because of the threshold… ie, it lets some parties avoid the threshold but not others. The problem is the threshold itself. I opposed coat-tailing in my submission, but I definitely don’t support what they’re suggesting and now feel a bit like I fell into a trap.
While the undemocratic, unhelpful and unnecessary 4-5% threshold survives, the odd and inconsistent coat-tailing rule is the only chance small parties have. A better and fairer solution would be to scrap the threshold altogether.