Some commentators predicted that the introduction of MMP might reverse the decline in party membership numbers. It does not appear, however, that MMP’s promise has been delivered. [Read more below]
The main premise of such arguments was that the change in electoral systems would to make New Zealand’s essentially ‘catch-all’ parties more like niche-orientated parties of principle, which would make them more attractive as organisations to join (Jackson and McRobie 1998: p.326). Likewise, it was suggested that MMP might increase party numbers because the memberships of the parties might have a substantial role in the selection of the party list.
According to Helena Catt, ‘Numbers turning out for the major parties had dropped partly because people felt they were not getting anything out of being in the party. A changed system would… mean the parties were more democratic. Membership could rise as the parties became more "likeable" ‘ (paraphrased in Rapson, 1991).
Similarly, according to McLoughlin, ‘Democratic changes could revitalise the political parties. If the law requires candidates to be chosen by party members, it will become worthwhile again for ordinary people to join parties. The more people who join, the less control will be exercised by the faceless ones in head office and the healthier will be our democracy’ (McLoughlin, 1993a: p.43).
Booker also reported: ‘Professor Richard Mulgan, the pro-party voice on the commission, told the Independent, he hoped MMP would boost party membership because parties would become more effective. People would want to belong because they could get things done’ (Booker, 1995a: p.16).
[This blog post is to be updated – any feedback or further information is very welcome]