In 1993 New Zealanders voted in a referendum to change their voting system from the traditional first past the post (FPP) method to mixed member proportional representation (MMP). This was the most dramatic change to the country's electoral system since the introduction of women's suffrage exactly 100 years before. How and why did this electoral revolution come about?
The origins of electoral reform lay in the gradual breakdown of public trust and confidence in politicians, Parliament and the simple certainties of the old two-party system. This process began in the 1950s and 1960s and gathered momentum in the 1970s and 1980s, decades marked by economic uncertainty and the emergence of new social and political movements.
As critics pointed out, the FPP system tended to create Parliaments quite different in composition to those that the voters appeared to want. The answer, some people argued, was a system of proportional representation in which each party's share of the seats in Parliament would be close to its share of the overall vote.