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Sovereignty: from the Treaty of Waitangi to the United Nations
Sovereignty challenged
Te Tiriti o Waitangi
How it all fits together
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MMP's first decade
Watchdogs for democracy
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Pacific citizens
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Labour leader Helen Clark began her third term as Prime Minister on the eve of the tenth year of the MMP proportional system of government for New Zealand. National leaders Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley ran the first MMP governments.

Helen Clark immediately started working to form a government following the cliff hanging proportional representation result of the 17 September 2005 New Zealand General Election. She succeeded, and advised the Governor-General on 17 October she could form her Government, then announced Labour Party agreements with four parties, and, on 19 October, her Cabinet.

Educating about MMP
This account of the first decade of MMP is based on triennial post-election editions of the DecisionMaker Guide to Parliament and Government - and is a base on which to build. It is initially to assist tertiary educators help their domestic and international students obtain foundation understanding of a key element of the New Zealand political system.

We welcome information and analysis that will make this briefing more useful to more audiences. Find out more and offer your comment.

by Anthony Haas, Asia Pacific Economic News correspondent in New Zealand's Parliamentary Press Gallery, publisher of DecisionMaker and Honorary Fellow, School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington.

Read right through - or click on the subhead to go to the content of interest to you.

Comment by Peter Brooks

Earlier MMP elections
Key understandings

Party numbers in Parliament
Stable, inclusive goal
Confidence and supply negotiations
National worked to form government
Special votes
Seeking Parliamentary majority
Caretaker government
National leadership
Parties’ internal processes
Cabinet conventions
Governor-General expected orderly transfer of power
Reserve powers of Governor General
Social inclusion
Electoral forces
Coalition agreement, 2005 Government formation
Coalition agreement: Progressives
Confidence, supply agreements: NZ First, United Future
Co-operation agreement: Greens
MMP inclusive, v FPP winner take all
Composition of 48th Parliament 2005-
Women in Parliament 2005-
Maori in Parliament 2005-
Asian, Pacific in Parliament 2005-
Where MPs worked

Party numbers in Parliament 2002- 05
Coalition agreement, 2002
Mid term changes – the July 2004 perspective
Composition of Parliament 2002-05
Voter turnout 2002

Coalition agreement, 1999
Processes for coalition management
Policy formation
Cabinet mix
Minority government

Party numbers in Parliament
Coalition agreement, 1996
Composition of 1996 Parliament
People then and now

Electoral Reform Coalition advocacy for MMP

As the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said in its Statement of Intent in 2005 "at the heart of New Zealand’s democratic political system is stable and continuing executive government that is accountable to an elected House of Representatives. New Zealand is one of the longest-running democracies in the world – and a necessary part of this continuity is the smooth transfer of power between successive administrations, prime ministers and ministers following elections. This is particularly so under our proportional representation electoral system, which is likely to result in more complex (and potentially lengthy) government-formation processes.

The New Zealand constitution is not found in one place or document – it is an amalgam of legislation, decisions of the courts, and practices and conventions. "

DPMC said "a lack of understanding – or misunderstandings – about the laws, conventions, principles, and procedures that underpin democratic government in New Zealand could place at risk the continuing operation of executive government within those accepted laws and conventions".

Earlier MMP elections
New Zealand coalition governments were built under MMP in 2005, 2002, 1999 and 1996.

Formal steps to introduce MMP were preceded by political action reflecting dissatisfaction with the previous First Past the Post political situation, characterised in 2005 in the Speech from the Throne at the opening of the 48th Parliament as “winner take all”.

The decision to use MMP from 1996 was made by voters in two referenda, held in 1992 and 1993. In the 1992 referendum, 85% of voters voted for a change from the existing first-past-the-post (FPP) voting system, and 70% of voters selected MMP as the best alternative. In the 1993 referendum – after a heated campaign – voters made a binding decision (by 54% to 46%) to replace FPP with MMP.

MMP is designed to ensure that the number of seats each party gets in Parliament is proportional to the number of party votes they get in an election. The principle is that if a party gets 10% of the votes, it should get 10% of the seats.

This account of coalition building under MMP starts with the detail of 2005 coalition building, followed by the essentials DecisionMaker recorded about the three earlier MMP related coalitions in each of its editions during this period. Other DecisionMaker reports record the nature of the MMP electoral system that gets MPs elected to Parliament.

Key understandings
During the first decade of MMP 1996-2006:
• MPs who had preferred the First Past the Post system managed the introduction and maintenance of MMP
• MPs with experience of MMP’s introduction remain involved in operating Government and Parliament under MMP
• Minority governments have run full term under MMP
• Much has stayed the same, but some of the form of Coalitions has changed over the decade
• The composition of Parliament has markedly changed over those elected under FPP, providing expanded access for some minorities
Economic growth has coincided with MMP, and although DecisionMaker makes no judgment as to cause and effect, the fact is that opponents of MMP pre its acceptance at referendum, were concerned at proportionalities’ potential negative impact on the economy, and operations of government
• Policy agreements have enabled a range, rather than one, political party to influence government programmes
• Policy choices have been made more in public view under MMP, wheras they were made more in the privacy of Government and Opposition party caucus under the former First Past the Post electoral system


Party numbers in Parliament
Eight parties were elected to the 48th NZ Parliament – including the one year old Maori Party. The 2005 state of the parties was Labour, 50 seats, National, 48 seats, NZ First, seven seats, Greens, six seats, Maori, four seats, United Future, three seats, ACT, two seats, Progressive, one seat.
Coalition negotiations, 2005 - How Helen Clark worked to form MMP Govt.

The Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) New Zealand political system meant Labour leader Helen Clark needed to negotiate with four minor parties to enable her to form a government. On 25 January 2006 she reflected that Labour's strategy under MMP was to provide the core in a series of negotiations with other parties to form stable governments.

Stable, inclusive goal
At her first post Cabinet media conference following confirmation of the mix of election night provisional and subsequent counting of special votes, then caretaker Prime Minister Helen Clark repeated that she sought a stable, inclusive 2005-2008 government - her third. She was not giving a deadline or ruling out any option in her bilateral talks, but the result could include coalition partners, agreement to support votes of confidence and provision of supply to her government, or simple decisions to abstain and not act to bring her government down. Words such as power sharing, and forming a minority government came to the surface in public comment during the negotiation period. Her challenge was the numbers game - how could she get a majority and how long could she keep it.

She and deputy Michael Cullen held talks that party chiefs of staff arranged, needing to rally at least 61 MPs to support a Labour led government.

Her experience is that parties agree to give support to the government in return for agreed policies being supported in the annual budget round. Agreements are made at leader, ministerial and party whip levels. She welcomed the honourable way people keep their word.

Confidence and supply negotiations

During the week after the election the Labour and National leaders talked with leaders of minor parties, laying the ground for negotiations that could lead to coalitions, understandings on supporting votes of “confidence”, votes for “supply” and other factors that affect the ability to form and keep a government stable.

Special votes, recounts, electoral challenges and the commitment to positions struck during the campaign could have affected the political equation.

National worked to form government
National Party leader Don Brash did not immediately concede defeat just because Labour had 50 seats to National’s provisional 49 seats on election night 2005 - and said he would work to form a government.

Independent bystanders could not rule Brash out because of the influence minority parties could have had in the negotiations that proceeded throughout the rest of September 2005.

Special votes

The negotiations looked to slow down until the third week after the election, when the “special votes” were reported, and some election night provisional results were overturned. People overseas, students away from their electorate on election day are typical of those who cast special votes in advance, and which needed time and checking after election day to be properly counted.

Even then, candidates could (as NZ First leader and Tauranga candidate Winston Peters did) use the law to challenge results - and that in turn could have affected the overall result.

Seeking Parliamentary majority
The final vote, which could have been but was not challenged successfully under electoral law, gave Labour a two seat lead with 50 seats to National’s 48 in a 121 seat Parliament.
National leader Don Brash conceded defeat to Helen Clark after the final vote was released by the Chief Electoral Office two weeks after election day. Brash said the result was “perhaps the least conclusive outcome to a general election since the introduction of MMP”. Clark said Labour had approximately the same vote in elections in 2005 as she had in 2002 and 1999, when she was able to form her first government.

Caretaker government
Helen Clark issued a statement about the immediate post-election timetable. She said that while consultations took place about the shape of the government, the current government continued in caretaker mode.

The key principles of the caretaker convention are that the normal business of government and the day-to-day administration of departments and government agencies continued as usual.

Decisions which were taken before the election continued to be implemented.

The caretaker government does not take significant or new policy decisions, or decisions with long-term implications, unless they cannot be deferred.

If neither deferral nor temporary arrangements are possible, the government would consult to see whether a proposed course of action has the support of a majority of the House.

Helen Clark said that the appointment of a government takes place after the Governor-General is satisfied that a group of parties can command the confidence of the House.

By law, Parliament was required to resume no later than Friday 18 November.

“The task now is for arrangements to be made which will ensure stable government in New Zealand for the next three years,” Helen Clark said during the month after the election in which her status was that of caretaker PM.

National leadership
Don Brash, although not able to form a government in the face of the determination, skills and numbers advantage held by Helen Clark, did, however, lead the National Party back from the cold into a strong position as government in waiting. The poll rejuvenated his caucus, to include former high performers in the diplomatic service and others who can offer a strong case to govern.

Don Brash was reconfirmed as National leader by his caucus immediately after the election he lost, and he said he did not intend stepping down before 2008.

Provisional voting results reported on election night had suggested the 120 seat Parliament would temporarily expand to 122, using the MMP “overhang” rules. But the special votes caused National to lose one seat off the provisionals, meaning only one seat was created by the “overhang” rules.

Parties’ internal processes
Timing of negotiations to design a government that lead the Governor-General to invite Helen Clark to form a government was affected by the internal processes of the minor parties - ranging from hui to conferences.

Some of the parties with small numbers of MPs said publicly they had reservations about being in a government with some of the other small parties. Clark’s negotiations included probing to find more fully what these reservations meant.
Winston Peters, NZ First leader, became foreign minister outside Cabinet - as well as racing minister and associate senior citizens minister in the third Clark government. Peter Dunne, Unitred First leader, became revenue minister and associate health minister outside Cabinet.

Cabinet conventions
The Cabinet Manual has been changed during Clark’s term as PM to accommodate conventions evolved under MMP - such as allowing small parties in a government ways to demonstrate their identity. Such conventions change the concept of collective ministerial responsibility that operated during the First Past the Post system that existed in New Zealand before the early 1990s.

In her foreword to the Cabinet Manual, referring to important clauses 3.23 and 3.24 about collective responsibility, Helen Clark wrote in the edition operating during her second term that it “contains significant new material reflecting the evolution of coalition government under proportional representation. It amends the doctrine of collective responsibility to allow coalition parties to express differentiated positions, within an agreed framework”.

Governor-General expected orderly transfer of power
Labour leader Helen Clark worked for four weeks and two days to form a government following the cliff hanging result of the 17 September New Zealand general election.

Dr Brash was not able to get majority support for a National-led government during the government formation negotiations. He may still get the opportunity to try to form an alternative administration, if Helen Clark loses the confidence of the majority of MPs before the general election due by late 2008.

Reserve powers of Governor General
As attention focused on how the Government is formed (or re-formed) it moved in part to the discretion the Governor-General could exercise. It is her Reserve powers that would matter.

Find out more about the Govt House view as provided in 2003 to DecisionMaker.

Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright told social science teachers on 26 September 2005 it was most unlikely she would have to call an early election - expecting that Helen Clark or Don Brash would advise her one of them could form a government.

Dame Silvia said most commentators were saying it would be a Labour led government in coalition or with smaller parties.

I won’t get involved in negotiations. I might say, “give it another go” Dame Silvia said in a briefing for teachers on the role of the Governor-General.

It is so unlikely I would face my worst nightmare of a 61-61 dead heat she said.

Social inclusion
Incumbent, caretaker Prime Minister Clark spoke the language of inclusion in her immediate post-election comments to the nation about her strategy for imminent talks with party leaders about forming a new government.

Inclusion, normally a tone struck by the leader of United Future Peter Dunne, was not evident when he said the price of his support could be the non inclusion of Green Party representation (particularly then co-leaders Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons) at the Cabinet table.

The result of the month of negotiations was that Peter Dunne, and the NZ First leader Winston Peters, both became Ministers - but outside Cabinet. The government arrangement to have Ministers with significant portfolios outside Cabinet early proved to be a domestic and internatiinal issue - and could prove challenging in future. The Green leaders got a range of their policies accepted, and some limited spokesperson roles for the Labour led Government - and committed to abstain on confidence and supply votes that could otherwise topple the third Clark government.

Helen Clark emphasised the need for the negotiations to produce stable government for her third term in office.

To achieve her goal she received commitments from NZ First and United Future to support the Labour-Progressive coalition on confidence and supply, and the Green Party commitment.

Electoral forces

Language - particularly code language related to race - has been an increasingly powerful electoral force, as the 17 percent of those polled who said they would change their party vote showed when they rushed to lend support for Dr Brash’s January 2004 “Orewa” speech. Then, he stressed policies based on race should be replaced by policies based on need.

National’s electoral slogan in this campaign targeted “mainstream New Zealand”, a point the Labour leader picked up in her “inclusion” and “three year stable government” speech when the poll results became clear around midnight on 17 September.

Coalition agreement, 2005 Government formation process
The Speech from the Throne, written by the Government, and handed by Prime Minister Helen Clark to the Governor-General to read on 8 November, 2005, at the opening of Parliament, formally recorded what had happened in the 2005 round of coalition building.

The Governor-General said the election result had given her government the opportunity to build on the New Zealand way of working that has emerged over the last six years.

With the announcement of the final vote count on 1 October it was clear that the Labour Party held the largest number of seats. With other parties committed to discussing the formation of a government first with the party with the largest number of seats, negotiations were able to commence. This led to the Prime Minister being able to inform her some two weeks later that she was in a position to form a government with a secure majority in the House on confidence and supply.
The Labour-led government is a minority one, thus continuing what is now emerging as a normal feature of our political system. It rested on three layers of agreements.

Coalition agreement: Progressives
The first is a coalition agreement with the Progressive Party. As with previous Labour-led coalition agreements, this provides for the maintenance of distinctive political identities in government and Parliament, and a commitment to focus on building a prosperous, safe, and sustainable New Zealand.

The Progressives are keen to bring to the government in this term their vision for both economic growth and greater ecological sustainability in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, as they see that as essential to preserving the natural capital upon which these industries rely. Improving the fisheries management framework through a network of marine protected areas is a key priority for them. In agriculture the twin challenges of increasing irrigation and avoiding nutrient build up in waterways are issues the Progressives intend addressing.

The biosecurity portfolio held by Jim Anderton was to continue to make an important contribution to ensuring the protection of our natural resource base, and would support the continuing economic development of the primary sectors.

The Progressives would also be continuing to pursue their key policy priorities around the misuse of drugs, better skills training and more support for families and senior citizens.

Confidence, supply agreements: NZ First, United Future
The second layer of agreements comprised the two confidence and supply agreements with New Zealand First and United Future respectively. These provided for positive votes in support of the government on confidence and supply.
The leaders of those two parties, Winston Peters and Peter Dunne, held ministerial portfolios outside Cabinet.

They were bound by the conventions of collective responsibility with respect to those portfolios, but not otherwise.
There was also a list of detailed policy matters for action or development in both confidence and supply agreements.

Co-operation agreement: Greens
The third layer was a co-operation agreement with the Green Party. As with the agreements with New Zealand First and United Future, provision was made for consultation on the broad outline of the legislative programme, on key legislative measures on which support is being sought, on major policy issues, and on broad budget parameters.

The Green Party would have full involvement in the detailed development and implementation of policy proposals for an enhanced energy efficiency programme and a ‘buy kiwi made’ programme. There would also be co-operation on two other levels of issues.

MMP inclusive, v FPP winner take all
These agreements were, the Governor-General said, an expression of her “government’s desire to continue with the broad and inclusive approach which New Zealanders opted for when they replaced the winner-takes-all attitudes of the first past-the-post system with MMP.

“Of necessity, the longstanding constitutional conventions associated with the consequences of the old electoral system are evolving to respond to the challenges of MMP. The fact that we have enjoyed stable minority government for the last six years, and can look forward to a further three, is a tribute to the adaptability of our constitution.”

Composition of 48th Parliament 2005-
There are more women, and Parliamentarians with Maori, Asian and Pacific backgrounds in New Zealand Parliaments elected under MMP than was the case under FPP – and there were more in most (but not all) of these categories in the 48th than the the 47th Parliament.

Women in Parliament 2005-
A third of New Zealand's 48th Parliament are women. Electoral Commission ceo Dr Helena Catt said on Suffrage Day this is a record, slightly ahead of the previous two Parliaments.
On election-night results, every caucus has at least one woman, except for Jim Anderton's Progressive Party.

There are 39 women and 82 men in the 48th Parliament – more than in previous MMP Parliaments.

Suffrage Day is on 19 September. On that day in 1893 New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote in Parliamentary elections.

Maori in Parliament 2005 -
The 48th Parliament, according to the Parliamentary Service website, has 21 MPs described as Maori - 17.4% of Parliamentarians elected in 2005 – more than in previous MMP Parliaments. Parliamentary Library research refers to those MPs who "identify as Maori".

Maori Members of Parliament from 1868 are named on the Parliamentary Service website. Four Maori seats were established by the Maori representation Act 1867, representing the northern, southern, eastern, and western districts. This number was increased to five by the electoral Act 1993. In 2002 the number of seats grew to seven. Maori were not allowed to stand for general seats until 1967.

Asian, Pacific NZ MPs 2005 -
Two percent of MPs elected in 2005 have Asian backgrounds, two percent have Pacific backgrounds. Seven percent of the NZ population is ethnically Pacific (predominantly non Maori Polynesian), and nine percent ethnically from countries in Asia – no significant increase over previous MMP Parliaments.

Where MPs worked
Business, teaching and farming backgrounds predominate amongst MPs in recent New Zealand Parliaments.


Party numbers in Parliament 2002-05
In the 2002 general election, Labour gained 52, National 27, New Zealand First 13, ACT and the Greens nine each, United Future eight and Progressive two seats in the third mixed member proportional (MMP) New Zealand general election. Seven of the political parties who contested the 2002 election gained seats.

Coalition agreement, 2002
In 2002 the Labour and Progressive Coalition Parties in Parliament agreed that Labour would lead the broad policy programme, but would recognise Progressive’s priorities of employment, support for low income families, health and education, and its wish to make progress on assisting industry, protecting and educating young people regarding drug use, and promoting a better balance of work and family responsibilities.

The Coalition Government also entered into agreements with the United Future and Green Parliamentary Caucuses. United Future agreed to provide confidence and supply; that is, they would vote with the Government on crucial votes, including votes regarding spending. In return, the Government agreed to take account of United Future’s priorities, with specific agreements regarding proposals for a Commission for the Family, victim’s rights, new transport legislation and no government legislation on cannabis. The Greens did not agree to provide confidence and supply, but they agreed to co-operate on a range of policy and legislative matters. Both agreements included clauses about consultation on a range of levels.

Mid term changes – the July 2004 perspective
In June 2004, Labour held 51 seats, National 27, New Zealand First 13, Green, Act and United Future eight each and Progressive two, and there was one independent MP. Donna Awatere Huata and the ACT party parted company in 2003. Tariana Turia’s resignation from Parliament and the Labour Party to contest a by-election in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate in July 2004 took effect from 17 May 2004. Tariana Turia was returned to Parliament as representative for the new Maori party as a result of that by-election.

Composition of Parliament 2002-05
In 2002 DecisionMaker reported that New Zealand’s Parliament was becoming “a place where more and more sections of society can have their voices heard.”
As a result of the 2002 election 19 MPs or 16% of the Parliament were Maori – the same proportion as in the New Zealand population. In 1980 there were just five Maori in Parliament.

The 1999 election produced 36 women MPs – 34 women were elected in 2002 comprising 28% of all MPs. The New Zealand Parliament then had three MPs with Pacific backgrounds, one Chinese and one Indian.

DecisionMaker reported in its 2003 edition “It is only in the last decade that these groups have had representation in Parliament.”

In 2002, 23 MPs previous occupations were business – 19%. Teaching was the second most common previous occupation – 18%. Earlier, farming was the most common previous occupation of MPs. In 2002, 10% of MPs were lawyers, 8% were farmers, 8% were trade unionists, and 8% were managers/administrators.

Parliament had also become more representative in another way. It gave voice to a wider range of opinion than it did a decade earlier. Seven parties gained seats in the 1999 and 2002 election. As recently as 1987 there had been only two. “While that made things a lot simpler, it meant that many New Zealanders felt left out” DecisionMaker reported.

Voter turnout

2,040,248 votes were counted, 2,031,617 were valid.
There were 69 members elected in electorate seats and 51 on party lists in the 120 person Parliament. Thirty of the MPs were new – 22 of them were elected on party lists. Total voter turnout was 77%, the lowest participation rate for the previous six elections. Voter turnout for those on the Maori roll was 58%, 20 percent lower than 1996. Labour won the seven Maori seats. The representativeness of Parliament has increased since the advent of MMP, although it still fell short of reflecting the composition of the New Zealand population.


Seven parties were elected to Parliament in the 1999 general election, Labour gained 49 seats, Alliance 10, United one, Green seven, National 39, ACT nine and NZ First five in the 120 seat Parliament elected in 1999.

The seven parties accounted for 93.9% of the 2,085,381 votes cast in the 83.1% turnout. The 1999 election was contested by 28 political parties.

Coalition agreement, 1999
The Labour and Alliance parties issued an agreement between the coalition parties on 6 December 1999, Helen Clark for the Labour Party and Jim Anderton for the Alliance
They agreed to form a coalition government with the following objectives:

1. to implement a policy platform which reduces inequality, is environmentally sustainable, and improves the social and economic wellbeing of all New Zealanders,
2. to restore public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament and the electoral process,
3. to provide stable and effective long term government for New Zealand without losing the distinctive political identity of either party, and
4. to act in good faith between the coalition partners.

Processes for coalition management
The 1999 agreement said so far as possible the achievement of the above objectives would be driven by consensus management and the avoidance of surprises.
The coalition government would operate within the convention of collective cabinet responsibility, subject to the provisions of this agreement, and the expectation was that cabinet decisions will be taken by consensus.

There was to be a standing coalition management committee comprising the two leaders, their deputies and the two senior whips. Meetings of the committee would be chaired by the Prime Minister. Each party leader could nominate a member of the party outside Parliament to attend meetings as required.
The tasks of the management committee would include dispute resolution and strategic political management of the coalition.

Where either party leader considered that a distinctive policy matter raises an issue of importance to the party’s political identity, the leader would raise this with the coalition management committee which would resolve an appropriate course of action, including possibly identifying the matter as one of “party distinction”. In this event there may be public differentiation between the parties in speech and vote which would not be regarded as being in breach of the convention. Such issues were expected to be infrequent and the parties recognised that dealing with them openly and responsibly was critical to the credibility of the coalition. Differentiation on such issues would not detract from the overall acceptance that the two parties were taking joint responsibility for the actions of the government.

The cabinet office manual was to be reviewed within the first six months of office to ensure that its procedures effectively facilitate the management of the coalition government.

Policy formation
The parties accepted that the executive was responsible to the people through Parliament, and this required a government policy programme which appropriately balanced the electoral platforms of the two parties within overall government policy
The policy of the government would be determined between the parties on an ongoing basis through the normal processes of government policy development. The key directions for the first term of the coalition were to be outlined in the Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament.

Cabinet mix
The Government was to be formed with 20 Ministers inside cabinet of which 16 were to be from the Labour party and four from the Alliance. The number of ministerial or undersecretary positions outside cabinet was to be agreed between the party leaders.

Minority government
Labour and Alliance, with 59 seats between them, became a minority government, and lasted the three year term.


Party numbers in Parliament, 1996-99
The political parties represented in the 120 seat 1996 Parliament elected in the first MMP election were: National 44, United one, Alliance (including Greens) 13, Labour 37, NZ First 17 ACT eight.

Coalition agreement, 1996
Jim Bolger was the first Prime Minister under MMP – at the helm of a National lead coalition government of 20 ministers inside and six outside cabinet. His deputy Prime Minister was initially the Leader of NZ First, Winston Peters. Jenny Shipley was initially their Minister of State Services, but displaced Jim Bolger as Prime Minister during that term of Parliament. Winston Peters joined, and was sacked from her cabinet.
It had taken two months for National and NZ First to agree on the details of their coalition arrangements. During this period NZ First also talked with other parties before deciding not to join a Labour led coalition.

Composition of 1996 Parliament
The 1996 intake of MPs included 35 women, 15 Maori, three Pacific Islanders, the first ever ethnic Chinese and two who were just 26 of age on election. A resignation from Parliament in 1997 saw the number of women rise to 36.

DecisionMaker had recorded in its 1997 edition following the 1996 election that women and ethnic minorities had historically found it difficult to achieve the necessary power base for advancement. For example, though women had won the right to vote in 1892, no woman was elected to Parliament until 1933. Until 1981, the number of women in Parliament never rose above six. MMP changed all that.

DecisionMaker asked, in 1997: “Have the Royal Commission’s hopes for a more diverse Parliament, offering more access to power through party membership, been realized? After just one MMP election it is too soon to say. The test will be the way women and minority groups find ways to participate in political parties and the Parliaments of the future.”

People then and now
Of the six party leaders in the first MMP Parliament, four were still leaders of parties reelected to Parliament in 2005 – Helen Clark, Jim Anderton, Peter Dunne and Winston Peters, the first two inside cabinet and the second two outside cabinet. Jim Anderton had been leader of the Alliance Party, which included the Greens, but in 2005 he was the sole MP for his Progressive Party.

Richard Prebble, who had been a minister in the Lange Labour government which began in 1984 and was ACT Party leader in the first MMP Parliament, did not contest the 2005 election. Jim Bolger had been followed by Jenny Shipley, then Bill English, then Don Brash as leaders of the National Party.

An initial minister in the Bolger MMP cabinet was Tau Henare, as Minister of Maori Affairs. Tau Henare was at that stage in New Zealand First, but left, and was not re-elected to the second MMP Parliament, but was re-elected as a National Party MP in the fourth MMP Parliament, in 2005. There were five NZ First ministers in the 20 person Bolger cabinet. Four of the six ministers outside cabinet were from NZ First, and two from National. One of the NZ First ministers outside cabinet, Brian Donnelly, remained in Parliament in NZ First and in the 4th MMP Parliament became chair of Parliament’s Education select committee.

National MPs in the first Bolger MMP Government who were re-elected in National’s Parliamentary team in 2005 were Murray McCully, Bill English, Lockwood Smith, Maurice Williamson and Nick Smith.

A former President of the NZ Labour Party, Maryan Street, who became a Labour list MP in 2005 used her first speech in Parliament to restate her support for MMP.

She said she was proud and honoured to be a list MP because “List MPs in particular represent the change to our democratic processes which was ushered in by the Electoral Referendum of 1993.

“I supported MMP because I considered then, as I do now, that it had a better chance of delivering up a fairer and more representative Parliament and decision-making structure than the previous First Past the Post system.

“Democratic participation has long been a subject of immense interest and passion for me. My never-to-be-finished doctoral thesis was about participation in the workplace and the resulting preparation of workers for full participation as citizens. The basic idea was that if you educate a worker in the ways of participation in workplace decision-making, you educate a citizen for participation in the wider polity.”

She took the opportunity of her first Parliamentary speech to dwell on the nature of democracy “because if that is not done in this place of all places, democracy will be at risk everywhere”. (see Political parties)

Electoral Reform Coalition advocacy for MMP
Danna Glendining, a Green Party adviser, recalled some of the evidence, support and opposition to MMP when she spoke at Parliament on 21st November 2005 at a Memorial Service for Rod Donald. Rod Donald, Green Party co-leader until his death in 2005, was a driving spirit behind the campaign for MMP, advocated through the Electoral Reform Coalition (ERC).

For the background of the ERC she said people need to remember:
o The 1978 election when Social Credit got 16% of the vote but no seats
o In 1981: 20% voted for Social Credit and got two seats
o In the 1984 election: 235,000 people voted for the New Zealand Party and got no seats at all
o In the 1991 election: the Alliance got 20% of the vote but only two seats
o As well there was a series of minority governments

She recalled a Tom Scott cartoon “Bedtime stories with Uncle Jim” – the National Party Prime Minister Jim Bolger, who opposed MMP, and became the first PM under MMP.

Scott wrote with his cartoon:

"When the little country ignored the advice of their wise leader and threw out the first past the post electoral system toads, spiders and other creepy-crawly things rained from the sky for the next 100 years.”

Danna Glendining had decided to put some energy into the campaign for electoral reform and Rod Donald had seized on her “as someone who could be useful to the rag tag bunch that was, and is, the ERC – the Electoral Reform Coalition”. Colin Clark of the PSA was the respected public face for most of the campaign, and in later years Tony Day took over as spokesperson.

In 2005 Danna Glendining recalled the challenges faced in advocating MMP. She drew attention to a newsletter report that on 15th September 1992, Tony Ryall, a current National MP accused the ERC of being Electoral Terrorists.
o Bill Birch, sometime senior National Cabinet Minister, had said MMP would be “a catastrophic disaster for democracy”,
o Ruth Richardson, sometime National Finance Minister, had said it “would bring economic ruin”
o and Peter Shirtcliffe, sometime chair of Telecom, amongst other things, had said MMP “would bring chaos”.

While the ERC spent $250,000 the so called Campaign for Better Government spent about two million dollars – in the days before email, the cellphone and the conference call."I clearly remember waking up and seeing the full page ads in the paper against us I couldn’t see how we could possibly win. 1993 was a David & Goliath situation” Danna Glendining said.

The House contains the peoples’ representatives.
They are there so citizens’ voices may be heard. In 1997, Speaker Doug Kidd said, “In a democracy such as ours, we rely on its citizens to be critical, involved, and energetic in defending their rights and meeting their obligations.”

DecisionMaker said “Parliament will not work as it should unless we help it to do so. MPs need our help to get things right, and to tell them when they get things wrong!”

And in 2003, in her foreword to the 5th edition of the DecisionMaker Guide to Parliament Dame Silvia said: Just as we expect our democracy to work for us, we have to work for our democracy. This means taking part in the decision making process. This means voting, participating in public life and contributing to the business of our nation”.

Coalition negotiations have increased citizen participation, through political parties, in the business of the New Zealand nation.

Content and links updated 23 February 200


MMP, the mixed member proportional voting system, is a key - but young - element of the New Zealand political system


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