Proportional representation is not the global panacea that some of its more excitable proponents would have you believe. It’s not the “one weird trick” that will usher in a golden age of reasonable and reasoned governance.
But the current system – a cartel of major parties guarding the mechanisms by which they keep their position – is not exactly a barrel of laughs either.
In New Zealand there IS a semi-decent form of proportional representation. It’s not baked into the constitution though. So how did it come about? Was the cartel swayed by humanitarian arguments and appeals to the better angels of our natures?
There was a leader’s debate ahead of the 1987 election There was a question on holding a referendum about whether to keep “First Past the Post” or shift to something else…
Er, no, at least according to this, from Laura Tingle in her 2020 Quarterly Essay.
“According to Palmer, [sitting prime minister David] Lange “thought that the [Labour Party] Policy Council had approved it, but it hadn’t. He misread his briefing notes, is what happened.”
Tingle, 2020: 61
She is drawing on this book – Guyon Epsiner and Tim Watkin The Ninth Floor: Conversations with five New Zealand prime ministers.
The story is more complicated than Tingle has space for. It was a very long brutal fight, but finally, in 1993 a referendum was held on “status quo vs mmp“, with You can read about it in the wikipedias article here and here.
It’s not up there with that Ceaucescu