Home > The Body Politic > Supplementary Member system – it’s a bloody rort!

Supplementary Member system – it’s a bloody rort!



“Supplementary Member” – It’s a rort!


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When “Vote for Change” spokesperson, Jordan Williams makes the claim that, “there is growing consensus that Supplementary Member is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post” – he is, of course creating a new “reality” to suit his group’s political agenda.

For one thing, “there is growing consensus that Supplementary Member is a good compromise” – is not true. There is no such “consensus”, growing or otherwise.

In fact, a poll conducted by UMR Research Ltd in May showed only 3% of voters supported that system,


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Williams’ claim that “Supplementary Member is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post” is also nonsensical wishful thinking.

MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) is a proportional system.  The number of MPs is determined (generally) by the percentage of Party Votes that a political party wins.

For example, if the Greens get 10% of the Party Vote, they get 10% of the seats in Parliament: 12 (10% of 120 = 12)

FPP (First Past the Post) is not proportional. The results of how many seats a political  party wins is purely random. In fact, in 1978 and 1981, Labour won more seats than National – but because of the vaguaries of FPP, National was given more seats in Parliament. (FPP is quite  arbitrary in the results it throws up.)

SM (Supplementary Member) is simply another version of FPP – but with “add-ons”.  It is not proportional.

To quote the Electoral Commission’s own website,


SM – Supplementary Member

There are 120 Members of Parliament. There are 90 electorates, including the Maori electorates. Each elects one MP, called an Electorate MP.  The other 30 seats are called supplementary seats. MPs are elected to these seats from political party lists and are likely to be called List MPs.
Each voter gets two votes.
The first vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.
The second vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote. The share of the 30 supplementary seats each party gets reflects its share of the party vote.
For example, if a party gets 30% of the party vote, it will get about 9 List MPs in Parliament (being 30% of the 30 supplementary seats) no matter how many electorate seats it wins.
This makes SM different from MMP where a party’s share of all 120 seats mirrors its share of the party vote.
One or other of the major parties would usually have enough seats to govern alone, but coalitions or agreements between parties may sometimes be needed.


To paint a picture of the difference between MMP and SM;




– Yes

Does the percentage of voter support equate to seats in Parliament?

– Yes. With some rare exceptions,  parties gain only as much seats as the percentage of Party Votes they win.

Eg; 25% of Party votes = 25% of Parliamentary seats (30)

50% of Party votes = 50% of Parliamentary seats (60)


Can one of the Big Two parties win more seats than their Party Vote entitles them?

– Generally, no.

Is MMP fairer to voters who vote for small parties such as the Greens, ACT, etc?

– Yes. Supporters of smaller parties stand a better chance of representation than under FPP or SM.

Do unelected Party List MPs get into Parliament under MMP?

– No. This is a myth. Party List MPs are firstly selected by their own Party members. Then, to win a seat in Parliament,  that Party must win over 5% of the Party List votes (or an electorate). So the Green’s 9 MPs were elected into Parliament by 157,613  New Zealanders voting for them. Likewise, ACT’s 4 MPs were elected by 85,496 New Zealanders voting for ACT.

How many seats will there be in a MMP Parliament?

– 120




– No

Does the percentage of voter support equate to seats in Parliament?

– No. A Party can win more seats than voter support. That is, because as with FPP, a candidate can win a seat with as little as 30% of the electorate vote. There is little correlation between percentages of voter support to final seat numbers.

Can one of the Big Two parties win more seats than their Party Vote entitles them?

– Yes. As with FPP, this will be quite likely.

Is SM fairer to voters who vote for small parties such as the Greens, ACT, etc?

– No. Smaller parties who can’t win electorate seats, and rely instead on the Party Vote, will win only a few seats.

Do unelected Party List MPs get into Parliament under SM?

– No. Again, Party List MPs will be voted in by ticking the appropriate Party Vote. The big difference is that there will be a under-representationfor those New Zealanders who happen to support parties other than National or Labour.

How many seats will there be in a SM Parliament?

– 120


An example of what a SM-style election result might  look like would be  the 1984 General Election, which was held under FPP,


Final results for NZ General Election (1984)


Under MMP, the final shape of Parliament might have looked like this, given the same percentages translated to Party Votes,


Final results for NZ General Election (1984) - Projected, under MMP System


Anti-MMP proponent, Jordan Williams, claims that SM “ is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post“. It clearly is nothing of the sort.

MMP is already a compromise between FPP and proportional representation because  70 of the seats in Parliament are still elected under FPP. The rest, 50,  are proportionally allocated according to each party’s Party Vote.

SM is simply FPP, with add-ons. The small number of proportionally-allocated seats under SM (thirty out of 120), do not result in a proportional Parliament. It does not give fair representation for smaller Parties. And more importantly; it returns dominance to the Big Two: Labour and National.

And by sheer “coincidence”, the majority  of “Vote for Change” supporters are also National supporters. This is because under FPP or SM, National (or Labour) could govern on their own, without any real break on their executive power.

Past history has shown us – whether under Muldoon’s strictly regimented, centralised economy  – or under Labour’s Rogernomics – than both National and Labour will ram through policies without smaller parties exercising a “braking” effect on their political power. In effect, they have “unbridled power”, as Sir Geoffrey Palmer once said.

Personally, I do not trust politicians with such unbridled power (even ones I vote for). Not because politicians are inherently “evil” – they are not “evil” – but being human, are liable to make mistakes like the rest of us.

MMP at least gives us an opportunity to put the brakes on politicians.

SM is taking the brakes off – and putting your foot on the accelerator for three years.

No thanks. That is why, on 26 November, I will tick the MMP box, to Make Mine Proportional.


“Vote for Change” and a Big Leap Backwards…



Having looked at the “Vote for Change” website, their statements are highly subjective and some are downright misleading. For example,

MMP allows List MPs who have been voted out by their local electorates to sneak back into Parliament on party lists.”

This is only half the truth. What V.f.C has “forgotten” to tell the reader is that any candidate  who enters Parliament on the Party List is there because New Zealand voters ticked the Party List vote for that particular party.

Eg; The Attorney General, Christopher Finlayson, stood as National’s candidate in the Rongotai Electorate in the 2008 election. Finlayson failed to win in Rongotai, and was beaten by Labour’s candidate, Annette King.

However, Chris Finlayson won 10,594 Electorate Votes (as opposed to Ms King’s 19,614 electorate votes) and also won 11,950 Party List votes. In total, Finlayson won 22,544 votes.

So Chris Finlayson did not “sneak” back into Parliament: he was elected with 22,544 Electorate and Party votes.

Opponents to MMP, generally, will often skew situations to suit their own p.o.v.

There is more on V.f.C’s website that is a blatant misrepresentation of  the truth… but I’ll leave that for another day.

Instead, I can reaffirm that this blog author supports retaining MMP, and will vote accordingly on 26 November.

I encourage you to do likewise.

Thank you.



Electoral Commission: Referendum 2011

Campaign for MMP | Facebook

Campaign for MMP

“Vote For Change”

MMP Or SM? A Big Decision Looms For New Zealand Voters



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