If you wanted the worst form of government possible, you would not choose MMP (Mixed Member Proportion) as your electoral system. You would opt for anarchy. MMP only delivers the second worst form of government.
The New Zealand electors were conned in the selection of MMP. Back in the '80s when we voted in a referendum, and the overwhelming majority selected MMP I doubt that 2% of the population understood what they were letting the country in for.
MMP may deliver a proportionate representation of the views of the populace (notice that I said "may") in terms of the number of MPs in Parliament. However, in combination with the "auto-combative" Westminster Parliamentary system operated in New Zealand it is an utter failure at delivering good government.
Here's what MMP does.
Firstly, a proportionate number of MPs representing all the views of the populace is elected to Parliament. There should be proportionately the same number of fringe looneys in Parliament as there are in society, and the same proportion of "politically correct" (as in, "I'm right, you're wrong") as there is in the general population.
Secondly, under the Westminster Parliamentary system, in order to form a government a political leader (let's call them a Prime Minister) needs to have the support of 50% or more of the members of Parliament. Negotiations take place between the various parties (here that means Political Parties) and a compromise is reached. Policies are traded off in order to reach a position where these 50% of MPs can share the power of being in government.
Smart readers will have spotted the problem already. Prior to the election political candidates can (within reason) promise anything they like. If elected, and they get invited to the negotiating table, they can simply trade off their "principles" and go back to the voting public with an excuse. They claim that in the overall picture it was better for them to be on the Treasury benches rather than in Opposition and holding out over a principle.
In order to maintain "Confidence and Supply" support, the major coalition partner needs to support legislation put forward by minor partners. In this current Parliamentary session the coalition has supported legislation put forward by an informal member i.e. the Greens have offered to support Labour, United Future and New Zealand First on confidence and supply while not being formal members of the coalition. Without the former, the latter 3 would lose the Treasury benches.
The result is that while there is supposedly a proportionate number of moderates, liberals, conservatives and loonies in Parliament, there is actually disproportionate representation in the development of policy. The minor views actually hold a disproportionate amount of influence on the Treasury benches.
How hard is it for voters to see this?
Maybe I haven't quite been hard enough of MMP as I should. However, I am prepared to cut it a bit of slack that with the right Parliamentary system it might have merit. However, in combination with the Westminster system it is an abject failure.
I haven't at this point gone into the problems of Political Parties, especially how they have been disproportionately empowered by MMP. In a later post I will fill you in.