DA moves to change electoral system

By Drum Digital
04 March 2013

DA MP James Selfe will table a private members' bill in Parliament on Monday proposing changes to South Africa's electoral system.

Through the draft Electoral Reform Bill, the Democratic Alliance sought to "re-introduce a constituency system for the National Assembly".

Currently, the 400 seats in the National Assembly are allocated according to the exact number of votes obtained by political parties in general elections.

MPs are elected from ranked national lists provided by parties to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Selfe told journalists at Parliament the current system had many advantages and was largely immune to manipulation.

But, the system's greatest weakness was a lack of accountability by MPs to the voters who elected them.

In many instances voters did not know who the MPs allocated to their constituencies were.

"This tends to lead to alienation and cynicism along with relatively low levels of [political] participation... There's a gradual downward trend as less and less people get out to vote," said Selfe.

He suggested a direct link between single MPs and their constituents, similar to the system used in the United Kingdom and in pre-democratic South Africa.

But, this should be done within the confines of the Constitution, which insisted on proportional representation.

"Accordingly, we would need to have a mixed system of constituencies and lists to guarantee proportionality to get that constitutional prescription adhered to."

The bill proposed 100 constituencies around the country, each to be represented by three MPs.

MPs would be elected by proportional representation, filling 300 of the National Assembly's 400 seats.

In practical terms, political parties would submit a ranked list of five names to the IEC for inclusion in the constituency contest.

"These names and the logo of the party would appear on the ballot paper for that constituency, but voters would still vote for a party."

The DA said voters would have the advantage of seeing the individual who would represent their interests in the National Assembly.

A second ballot paper would contain only the list of parties contesting the election.

Based on the outcome of this, the electoral commission would allocate 100 seats to MPs from parties' national lists.

-by Sapa

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