Election 2014

28 Oct 2008

Highest polling party should always form Govt - National

7:35 pm on 28 October 2008

National says small political parties should take heed of an opinion poll which suggests a large majority of people believe the party with the most votes should form the next Government.

A total of 79% of respondents to the TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll believe that should be the case, while 15% disagree.

Some academics and electoral specialists say that shows that people do not understand the system, because whichever party or parties can muster a majority can legitimately form a government.

But National leader John Key says the general public does not see it that way.

"That might be the way an academic views it but it's not the way the general person in the street does. TV One had a poll that showed that 79% of New Zealanders share my view and that is that if you are the largest polling party and you're not given a chance to put together a government, then in effect you're robbing people of that moral mandate."

He says smaller parties would be well suited to consider that.

The poll surveyed 1,007 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

Victoria University political science professor, Elizabeth McLeay, says some people may feel the party with the most votes has a moral right to have the first go at forming a government.

However, she says democratically and politically it would be legitimate for the party that comes second to form a government, if the prime minister has enough votes in parliament.

A commentator and author on electoral matters, Philip Temple, says the TVNZ poll seems to indicate people are stuck in the days of the First Past the Post system and do not yet understand the working of proportional representation.

Dr Temple says internationally, there is nothing unusual about a party that does not have the most votes forming a government.

Labour leader Helen Clark says under MMP it is all about who has the most friends in parliament.

Progressives leader Jim Anderton argues if a group of parties collectively win a majority of votes, they have a legitimate right to govern.

Since the MMP electoral system was introduced in 1996, the major party that attracted the most votes has always been the one to form the government.