That was then and this is now – a bit of MMP coalition history

Andy Fyers has put the recent allocation of cabinet seats into a historical context

NZ First will take four seats out of 20 around the Cabinet table in the coalition deal with Labour, announced on Thursday.

The agreement is supported by the Greens outside Cabinet. But how does it compare to previous coalitions in New Zealand under MMP?

It is the first time in nine years the decision-making body at the heart of New Zealand Government will feature more than one party.

In the previous three Governments, the National Party held all 20 Cabinet posts.

Before then, in 2005 and in 2002, Labour had 19 out of 20 Cabinet posts. The remaining one was held by Jim Anderton, who was at that time representing Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition.

The last time the biggest party had to make any meaningful concessions of Cabinet posts was in 1999, when Labour agreed to give four posts to the Alliance Party, then led by Anderton.

After the first election under mixed-member proportional representation in 1996, NZ First threw its support behind National and received five Cabinet posts in return.

So has NZ First won a disproportionate number of Cabinet posts, relative to its level of support or in comparison to previous coalition deals?

Cabinet posts are never likely to reflect a proportionate share of the vote, and nor should be should they be.

The party or parties that manage to scrape past 50 per cent of the votes can divide up 100 per cent of the Cabinet seats.

Nonetheless, here are the numbers: NZ First has 20 per cent of the Cabinet, with 7.2 per cent of the votes.

In 1996, the party led by Winston Peters made up 25 per cent of the Cabinet after winning 13.35 per cent of the total votes.

Then in 1999, Alliance made up 20 per cent of Cabinet after winning 7.74 per cent of the votes.

In the scheme of things, four cabinet posts had a historic precedent and wasn’t at all unreasonable within the current context.   Bottom line remains:  National let their hurty feelings get in the way of a pragmatic outcome.

And after the two backbenchers back-stabbed the negotiation team by leaking, it was all over Rover.


– Stuff


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