Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rules out changing electoral laws for 2020 election

2019-03-05 04:04:16

Green Party justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman has seemingly been forced to amend a bill after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ruled out changing electoral laws for 2020.

This week Ghahraman urged the Government to adopt her member's bill that would implement the 2012 Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) review recommendations.

The Electoral Commission suggested changes, such as abolishing the coat-tails rule and reducing the threshold to 4 per cent, but nothing was done.

On Tuesday, Ardern said anything that might be done in the electoral reform space would not happen for the 2020 election.

Shortly after, Ghahraman tweeted: "Stoked we're finally debating the Electoral Commission's 2012 MMP recommendations that the Nats swept under the carpet. I've amended my Bill to make clear, the MMP recommendations, would pass now but not come into force until the 2023 election."

At her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Ardern said alongside the Labour Party, she favourably viewed the commission's recommendations, but discussions were being held as to whether or not that decision should be up to the public in a referendum.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Andrew Little said he too was "sympathetic" to the referendum and Government parties were in discussions about the mechanism to make any changes.

He believed there was a willingness to see a threshold change because it was part of a review.

Cabinet had yet to make a decision about any law change and he expected that would happen in the next few weeks.

Voters having a say in a referendum would take away any allegations that the politicians were acting in their own self interest, he said.

Under MMP, the proportion of votes a party gets largely reflects the number of seats it has in parliament, and political parties must win at least 5 per cent of the party vote to enter Parliament.

Lowering the party vote threshold would make it easier for smaller parties to win seats and the National Party has accused the Greens of pulling a political stunt because they would be "toast" in the next election.

Opposition Leader Simon Bridges said any electoral law changes shouldn't apply in the next election.

The threshold provision was a "stalking horse" for the coalition Government to "save their bacon" at the next election, he said.

"That worries me. I think Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little need to rule out doing it before next election .. it would be outrageous if they did."

Serious constitutional law reform required "super majority" cross party support and he was available to discuss his party's position with Ardern and Little.

"For the most part our caucus has a strong view of staying at 5 per cent."

National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell said a fundamental change like lowering the threshold should not be made unless the people of New Zealand support it and want it.

He did not see any need to change the threshold.

"The party that seems to be driving this is struggling to get beyond the 5 per cent threshold, so you could say there is self-interest, motivation involved."

The Justice Select Committee undertook a review after every election and if the Greens wanted to get cross-party support for their bill, they should have a presence on the committee and join the current discussion, he said.

National MP Chris Bishop said he rejected the Greens political stunt because it would be "toast" in the next election.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said electoral law change was a constitutional matter that should be decided by the people and not by temporary, empowered politicians.

He was happy to put the commission's review back in front of the public.

The party preferred the 5 per cent threshold.

"We think if you can't get 5 per cent, you shouldn't be in Parliament."

Ghahraman​ called on Bridges to follow the will of the people and add his voice to MMP changes that were recommended in the review.

"National put the country through an MMP review that took thousands of public submissions and made a series of independent recommendations. Judith Collins then refused to bring these to Parliament. There was no genuine consultation."

She urged Bridges to support the Greens call for changes to be debated in Parliament to see what sort of majority exists for change.

"We understand that people don't want politicians to cherry pick the recommendations, which is why we think the independent electoral commission advice should be followed."

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