Established in the Palace of Westminster in London, the British government system is the first and most well-known example of the Westminster model. However, in 1987 Arend Lijphart has stated “New Zealand has a special status among the world’s democracies as the purest example of the Westminster model of government”. 23 years has passed and many changes have taken place during those time but despite all, the New Zealand government system in 2010 is still an example of the Westminster model though no longer the “purest”. An easy way to assess the extent to which New Zealand is still a Westminster-type government is to first look into major changes happened after 1987 and then in to things that remained unchanged in the government system of the country. It is essential to have some idea about the Westminster government model first. The Westminster model, also called the majoritarian model, is a general model of democracy (Lijphart, 1999, p.9). There are many definitions for Westminster but this paper will follow the definition provided by Professor Chris Eichbaum (2010). The Westminster government model has six main features: the parliament is sovereign; the members of the Cabinet are also members of the Parliament; has a two-party dominant system in the parliament; use an electoral system that usually produces single-party majority government; members of the Cabinet have to have responsibility individually and collectively to the Parliament; and the public sector has to be independent of the Cabinet and politically neutral. And that is enough definition to move on to the specific case of New Zealand. Significant changes have taken place during 23 years in the government system of New Zealand. We will first study the electoral reform and then discuss about changes that have followed it. The transformation from the First-to-Past-the-Post (FPP) system to the Mixed-Member-Proportional (MMP) system was seen as the most important change in the government system of the country since 1987. From 1853 until 1993, New Zealand used the plurality or the FPP election system . This system produced “severely disproportional results” (Lijphart, 1999, p.22), which means one most popular party would gain a larger number of seats in the Parliament compared to the proportion of votes it received (Elections New Zealand: From FPP to MMP, 2006). The two elections in 1978 and 1980 are two standout examples of the situation. In 1978, the National party won 51 seats out of 99 with only 39.8% of the votes, while Labour’s 40.4% votes only got them 40 seats and the less popular parties including Social Credits and Value with the remaining percentage of votes only got one seat. The same situation repeated in 1981, National gained more seats than its proportion of the votes and this, Social Credits, who had 20.7% of the votes - a big amount compared to the other two large parties, only won two seats (Lijphart, 1999, p.23). Under FPP, single-party majority governments were produced. But due to the “severely disproportional results” (Lijphart, 1999, p.22) of FPP, in 1985, as New Zealand’s voters demanded a more proportional electoral system, the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform was established and they recommended the MMP system, a system that tends to produce single-party minority government. It took six years and a lot of discussion and debate before the two referendums, one in 1992 and one in 1993, ended with the victory of the MMP voting system. Finally, New Zealand’s electoral system was changed to MMP (Elections New Zealand: From FPP to MMP, 2006). The first election under MMP was described as the “sharp turn away from majoritarianism” of the New Zealand government system (Lijphart, 1999, p.10) as the country was no longer using an electoral system that likely to create single-party majority government. The major transformation in the electoral system has then led to another change in the government system. Before 1996, two large...
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