John Key’s “Five-headed monster” comment is more than just ignorant of the deals he’ll need to do to get into government. (On latest polling trends he’d have his own “four-headed monster”)
It is ignorant of the entire purpose behind MMP. That purpose is co-operative democracy with many factions, where factions can’t risk trying to tear each other apart. It’s a more consensus approach to parliamentary democracy. By having “many heads”, (I prefer “more voices”) we avoid the problem of autocratic leaders who can unilaterally front unpopular policy. There needs to be the conviction not just of the governing party, but also the support parties to pass bills that might potentially be unpopular, but which the government deems necessary.
The system was instituted in Germany partly with the idea to prevent the rise of another autocratic1 party after World War II. It is highly revealing of the National Party that its leaders fail to understand that parties and coalitions do not need to be autocratic, where more voices are regarded as negative, distracting, and unmanageable.
Instead we can base decisions around consensus: (The philosophy of agreement) The core governing party might have a policy it wants implement. First it asks “Who would support our plan roughly as we propose it?” If enough of their partners sign up, the process of drafting the policy as a formal bill begins, then readings in parliament start, and minor amendments and are proposed and voted on until the bill passes. If not enough partners sign up immediately, the core of the government can then ask: “What would we need to change to get your support?” From there, it is a simple matter of finding a compromise position that suits all of the parties involved. It is easily managed, but requires diplomacy, co-operation, and the acknowledgement that every representative in Parliament is valuable, because they all represent a constituency.
Why is that so hard for National’s leaders to understand?
1While many people associate totalitarian governments that oppress the people with communism and socialism, “fascism” and “nazism” are the right-wing version of the same trend. All of these types of governments can be umbrella-ed as “autocratic”.