As previously discussed, I have been seriously considering voting ACT at the election this year, although I suspect I won’t know for sure until I am actually at the polling station. This week, David Seymour came out with his list of conditions which form the basis on which he will go into coalition with another party to form a government. Here are the main items:

“A Government dependent on Act will never pass laws that restrict your speech,” he said in a state of the nation speech in Auckland yesterday.

He said the gun laws in response to the shootings last year in which 51 people were killed was “collective punishment for the worst crime in our nation’s history on a group of people who’d done nothing wrong”.

“Act in Government would insist on reversing the second tranche of firearms laws, reintroducing the E-Category, and getting the woeful police out of firearms licensing and administration,” Seymour said.

“Any future Government that Act is in will bring back partnership schools in even greater numbers,” he said.

A Newspaper.

Nothing very terrifying there, is there? In fact, I agree with all of it. So, that should make me even more comfortable to vote ACT, right?

So why do I have a feeling of foreboding about this?

This is why.

“The Act Party stands to hold the balance of power after this election,” [Seymour] said.

Now who does that remind you of?

The thing I hate most about our MMP system is the way the government invariably ends up being held to ransom by the smallest party in parliament. At the moment it is NZ First but in the past it has been United Future, the Alliance, the Maori Party… all parties that hardly anyone voted for end up calling the shots. All that posturing makes me sick. And now David Seymour is getting in on the act. Yes, pun intended.

People voted in favour of MMP because they wanted all parties to have a voice, and wanted to see smaller parties in parliament having at least some say in the running of the country, or possibly to act as a handbrake on the major parties. They never anticipated the ‘tail wagging the dog’ scenario that seems to happen to every government. This is the main reason I swore I would never vote for a small party again, after voting United Future in 2002.

While Seymour admits it is unlikely that he would ever form a coalition with Labour, he is not ruling it out all together, meaning my vote for ACT might end up bringing Jacinda back to power. While not likely, a fair few NZ First voters never expected to be voting for a Labour-Green government in 2017 either, so stranger things have happened.

I have been really happy for the last week, thinking that clear battle lines had been drawn for the election, after Simon Bridges ruled out working with NZ First. I thought we would all know exactly what we were voting for this year, unlike last time. Now David Seymour has thrown some doubt back into the mix, and we are back to the murky situation we were in before. I really dislike this aspect of MMP.

Maybe Seymour is simply signalling to Simon Bridges that he is going to be no pushover; that he expects certain concessions if he is to form a government with National, and I suppose that is fair enough. The place to do that, however, is during coalition talks. All he has done now is muddy the waters around the election itself, and it is possible that it will cost ACT some of its recently gained support.

Is Seymour really saying that, if things work out so that ACT holds the balance of power, he will go back and forth to Labour and National to get the best deal he can, just like Winston? Really?

I’m sure you will all tell me to calm down, and that there is nothing to worry about… but actually, there is something to worry about. What happens if NZ First falls below the threshold (and fails to win Northland), National’s support is up and both sides are neck and neck when it comes to the numbers? Then comes the horse trading, which worked out very well for Labour last time. I’m not sure that the Greens would feel very comfortable going into coalition with ACT, but then again – didn’t we all say that Winston would never go into a government that included the Greens?

This means – and it pains me to say it – that the Greens are the only party in parliament that are principled enough to be clear about who they will, and will not, get into bed with. Sure, National have done it this time, but they don’t always do it.

This is why I hate MMP. All this posturing by the minnow parties does my head in. Maybe I will stick to my promise, made in 2002, to never vote for a minor party ever again.

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