Effective Government

Does the voting system contribute to the stability of governments, enabling them to develop and implement their policy programmes and take decisive action when required?

Effective government is widely considered to be one of the major criteria for assessing electoral systems. The Report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System notes that the "electoral system should allow Governments in New Zealand to meet their responsibilities. Governments should have the ability to act decisively when that is appropriate and there should be reasonable continuity and stability both within and between Governments."

It is important to note that the 'Effective government' criterion involves a trade-off. As the editors of The International IDEA Handbook of Electoral System Design put it, "The question of whether the government of the day can efficiently enact legislation is partly linked to whether they have a working parliamentary majority or not, and this in turn is linked to the electoral system.

As a general rule of thumb, plurality-majority electoral systems are more likely to give rise to parliaments where one party can outvote the combined opposition, while Proportional Representation [PR] systems are more likely to give rise to coalition governments. Nevertheless, it has to be remembered that PR systems can also give rise to single party majorities, and plurality-majority systems can leave no one party with a working majority."

Each of the voting systems tends to perform on the question of effective government in the following ways:

MMP

Single-party majority governments, which usually pass laws on their own, are unlikely. Governments will usually need on-going negotiations with other parties to develop and pass laws. Governments have usually – but not always – lasted full-term.  Under MMP in New Zealand, there have been no premature elections caused by the defeat of a government.

FPP

Single-party majority governments, which usually pass laws on their own, are common. Governments usually control the policy agenda and can pass laws without the need for negotiations with other parties. Governments usually last for full terms. Premature elections caused by the defeat of a government are most uncommon.

PV

Single-party majority governments, which usually pass laws on their own, are likely. Governments usually control the policy agenda and can pass laws without the need for negotiations with other parties. Governments usually last for full terms. Premature elections caused by the defeat of a government are most unlikely.

STV

Single-party majority governments, which usually pass laws on their own, are unlikely. Governments will usually need on-going negotiations with other parties to develop and pass laws. It's reasonably likely that governments will last full-term; premature elections caused by the defeat of a government or the collapse of a coalition are reasonably unlikely.

SM

Single-party majority governments, which usually pass laws on their own, are likely. Governments are likely to control the policy agenda and pass laws without the need for negotiations with other parties. Governments are likely to last for full terms. Premature elections caused by the defeat of a government are unlikely.

Last updated: 29 January 2013