New Zealand, proportional representation has encouraged a diversity of political
ideas, better legislation and a parliament that more closely reflects the makeup
of the country's population, according to a political scientist.
"I think most people would say it's been a qualified success. It has
certainly resulted in a more representative Parliament," said Raymond
Miller, a professor at the University of Auckland.
Canada's NDP party, which is pushing to introduce proportional
representation, holds New Zealand up as the model to follow. The country adopted
the new voting system in 1996 and Miller admits it wasn't smooth sailing at
"Initially, for the first three or four years, we had a lot of
instability with the collapse of the first coalition government," he said
in an interview from New Zealand this week.
"Since then, under the Labour-led administration, we've had a reasonably
stable government," Miller said.
He said the new voting system met the promise of bringing more women and
minorities into government. The country's current parliament is about 30 per
cent women, he said. And it also boasts 15 per cent representation from New
Zealand's indigenous Maori people, who make up 14 per cent of the population.
And proportional representation has opened the door to smaller parties, he
said. "We currently have eight political parties in the parliament
representing a wide range of different interests. Traditionally, we would have
no more than two," Miller said.
He said conservative voters who like what he calls "strong and
effective" government might consider proportional representation ’Äî and
the inevitable coalition governments it produces ’Äî less effective.
"Coalition governments involve some consultation and compromise and
trade-offs with small parties and that tends to slow down the decision-making
process," he said.
But Miller argues that while it takes more time, the need to reach a
consensus on big issues tends to produce "better legislation and
legislation that meets with stronger public approval."
Nor have coalitions resulted in unstable government, a criticism levelled by
skeptics of proportional representation, who often cite the examples of
"revolving door" governments in Israel and Italy.
"It really hasn't changed the election cycle ... It's been little
different from what we had previously except we've had coalitions rather than
single party governments," he said.