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The 1993 referendum


The second binding referendum was held in conjunction with the 1993 general election. The government introduced two Bills into Parliament relating to this referendum which were passed after a select committee had considered submissions from the public. The law authorising the holding of the referendum was similar to that for the first referendum. However Parliament also passed a new Electoral Act to implement MMP430 which provided that the new electoral law would automatically replace the old electoral law if the official result of the referendum showed that a majority of those who voted in the referendum had voted for a change in the voting system.

The select committee made a very important change to the Bill to implement MMP when it decided to insert a provision requiring a select committee to review the new system beginning in April 2000 and reporting to Parliament by mid-2002. That review would therefore come after the second scheduled general election under MMP.431 In addition to specifying a number of matters which the review committee must examine, the law required the committee to consider whether any further referendum should be held on changes to the electoral system, and if so what issues should be put to the voters and when such a referendum should be held. This provision reassured many people that a change to MMP at the 1993 referendum would not be an irrevocable step, although many also thought that a further referendum was guaranteed rather than just a matter which the review committee was obliged to consider.

Once again, an independent Panel was appointed to carry out a government-funded programme of public education about the options at the 1993 referendum.432 Unlike 1992, the Panel had a detailed law to implement MMP and could therefore be specific on the details of both FPP and MMP.

The 1993 referendum resulted in a narrow but decisive public endorsement of MMP, by 54% to 46%. Because the referendum was held in conjunction with a general election, the turnout (85.2%) was much greater than at the 1992 referendum.