Referendum in Sight
New Zealand is due to hold an election referendum in 2011 to enable the population to decide between using AV or the current ‘first-past-the-post’ system. Ken Ritchie, the chief executive of Britain’s Electoral Reform Society, praised New Zealand’s government for allowing voters a range of options. “People will be asked firstly if they want change, and secondly what sort of change. That would allow a real debate on the merits of different electoral systems and would let the voter take the decision on the type of politics they want,” Ritchie said. New Zealand’s referendum is the first of its kind since 1993, when New Zealanders voted to replace the Westminster system of FFP with the Additional Member System, or, as it is known in New Zealand, Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP). Politics lecturer at the University of Otago Dr Bryce Edwards, who has worked as a government policy analyst in New Zealand and the UK, commented that: “Disillusion with MMP has existed ever since it was brought in, and there has been widespread expectation of a referendum for some time. “It’s too far away now to know exactly what will happen, but we have been promised that if a different system is not voted for, there will be a review of the current MMP system, and changes made.” Regardless of whether votes choose to discard or retain an improved version of MMP, a new system will not be introduced until 2014, when a general election is scheduled.