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Conceptualizing the Regulation of Coalition Governments in South Africa

A coalition government is one where no single political party has emerged with an outright majority, therefore two or more parties have to cooperate in order to form a government.

We discuss the fascinating and worrisome landscape of coalition governments in South Africa.

Discover how the Institute for Election Management Services in Africa (IEMSA) advocates for the establishment of robust regulations to govern the formation, functioning, and dispute resolution of coalition governments. Learn from successful coalition governance models in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Kenya, and discover how implementing a comprehensive framework can foster stability, transparency, and democratic ideals. Click below to read more.


Conceptualizing the Regulation of Coalition Governments in South Africa – IEMSA

Terry Tselane argues that digital

 elections need to be implemented, especially with the Electoral Act now declared unconstitutional.

The recent Con Court judgment enabling citizens to be elected for office independently of political parties isn’t that straightforward – or that easy to implement, writes Terry Tselane the former commissioner and vice-chairperson of the IEC.
The judgment from the Constitutional Court declaring parts of the Electoral Act unconstitutional was heralded by some as ushering in a new era in electoral democracy. They argued that this declaration freed the population from the clutches of political parties, and marked the beginning of the withering of the political party system. Some even believed that the judgment meant there would soon be a new president elected directly by the citizens.

READ: ConCourt declares parts of the Electoral Act unconstitutional
Of course, the judgment was groundbreaking in many respects. For the first time since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy, individuals stand a chance of being elected and holding office in the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures. Parliament has been given 24 months to rectify this defect, but the provision only becomes relevant in 2024, which is when the next general elections are scheduled to be held.

As the court pointed out, section 19 (3) (b) of the Electoral Act “empowers adult citizens to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office”. Section 57 (a) of the act was found to have violated this right by requiring that citizens align themselves with a political party before doing so.
The judgment did not, however, change the electoral system in its current form. The sanctity of the current proportional representation system is enshrined in the Constitution, which provides for an election outcome that “results in general in proportional representation”. So the judgment in no way curtailed the role or powers of political parties.

READ: Setumo Stone | Be wary of independent candidates
Instead, the importance of the judgment is in the creation of a hybrid system similar to that which is applicable at municipal level. In terms of this system, political parties contest an election by submitting a party list through a proportional representation, as well as fielding as party ward candidates. These candidates contest the elections with independents at ward level. Accordingly, award is won by a simple majority in a single-member plurality or first-past-the-post voting system.

Unfortunately, independent candidates will always struggle against established parties.

The country is currently demarcated into 4 392 wards. During the 2016 municipal elections, 855 independents ran for office, but only 27 of them managed to get seats. The rest of the wards went to political party ward candidates.
The success of political parties in these elections can be attributed to infrastructure, resources, experience and technical know-how in political campaigning. Unfortunately, independent candidates will always struggle against established parties.

For the Constitutional Court judgment to be effectively implemented, Parliament will have to develop key principles and values underpinning the new system. The country will have to be demarcated into constituencies by an institution similar to the Demarcation Board, or by the Demarcation Board itself.

The judgment has therefore further complicated electoral processes and voter participation in them.

“In my view, the board is best suited to deal with this since it already has the data sets of our geographical areas, as well as the necessary experience and technical expertise, after many years of demarcating municipal boundaries. In the event that the board is appointed to perform this responsibility, the Municipal Demarcation Act will have to be repealed to empower it to do so.”

READ: Demarcation board urged to revoke multimillion-rand contract
Those who assume that elected independents will have enormous powers and influence may therefore be mistaken. It is ultimately the parliamentarians who will define the powers and functions of the new representatives.
Broadly speaking, their role will be limited to enacting legislation and participating in debates and committees. Furthermore, the independents will have to engage their constituencies to understand their needs, as well as to advocate for resources. Those with presidential ambitions will have an opportunity to make themselves available during the first sitting of the National Assembly, which is empowered to elect the president from among its members.

READ: Terry Tselane | Digital voting should be launched globally
The introduction of constituencies will mean that, during general elections, four ballot papers will be issued to voters – the first two denoting proportional representation and the remaining two representing constituencies. In total, therefore, there will be four ballot papers for national and provincial elections, three ballot papers for local municipalities and two for metropolitan councils.
As I have argued previously, if municipal elections are harmonised with general elections, voters in local municipalities will receive seven ballot papers and those in metropolitan council areas will receive six.

READ: Terry Tselane | Why a single election is ideal for SA
The judgment has therefore further complicated electoral processes and voter participation in them. Electoral officials will need to rapidly digitise these processes by introducing electronic voting.
Tselane is executive chairperson of the Institute of Election Management Services in Africa.

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