Mixed Member Proportional Systems (MMP)
MMP has been used in Germany since 1949 and in New Zealand since 1996.
In each country, voters have two votes to cast for the national legislature. The first is for a local representative, and the second for a national. That way, a voter might be able to influence the election of someone who lives in their legislative district and also to select a national party that best reflects their viewpoints on public policies.
In Germany, 299 national legislators are elected by plurality in single-seat districts and another 299 are elected by a national party list system. In the 2009 election, 24 additional "overhang" seats were added for a total of 622 seats to bring the national legislative body to proportionality among the parties who won seats. Germany has two major parties and several minor ones. Typically, one large party forms a majority government in partnership with one of the smaller parties but in one recent coalition, the two biggest parties ruled together. Since 1990, 5 political parties have been represented in the Bundestag (national legislature) while the smallest parties have not met Germany's 5% threshold necessary to attain representation.
In New Zealand, 120 national legislators are elected by plurality in single-seat districts. When the need to attain proportionality demands, extra seats are added to the Parliament (national legislature). This was done in 2008 to allow proportional representation for other parties when the Maori Party won five seats rather than the three it would have won otherwise, therefore expanding the size of Parliament to 122 members. The familiar system of representation by area constituency was retained when New Zealand adopted MMP in 1993. Yet MMP allows all voters nationally to be represented in a balanced manner.
Some advocates of fair elections feel that MMP gives voters the best of both worlds by retaining the familiar system of geographic representation while also achieving the democratic ideal of legislative proportionality.
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What the heck does "Mixed Member Proportional" (MMP) mean?
MMP is called "Mixed" because in the same legislative body, members are elected two different ways. First, an election is held in the old-fashioned way of having just one representative per geographic district. Then, instead of just leaving it at that, the votes for each party or slate are totaled nationwide (or throughout all appropriate constituencies). Finally, enough seats are added to the legislative body to achieve proportionality of political parties who contested the election.
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Click on the pictures to see how MMP works