Press Release: Electoral Reform

In a submission to the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) has detailed its concerns with the Electoral Amendment Bill drafted to allow for the election of independent candidates.

The HSF has two primary concerns: the Bill does not account for independents who have national support outside the region in which they run and does not allow for any improvement in direct accountability of nationally elected representatives to the voters. These defects would be remedied were the Bill to introduce a mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system.

A MMP electoral system has found significant support in South Africa, being the recommendation of the majority report of the Electoral Task Team in 2003, the report of the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation in 2017 and the majority report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee in 2021.

HSF points to surveys of Afrobarometer, a reliable and well-respected source of information about what people in Africa think, that show a sharp decline in adult South African trust in Parliament over the last decade. The gap between Parliament and people needs to be narrowed in in the interest of our constitutional democracy. An MMP system can do this by creating constituencies while retaining the overall principle of proportionality in representation required by Section 46 of the Constitution. It is a tried and tested system, which has been successfully implemented in Germany and New Zealand. It is also a system encouraging of political accommodation and coalition.

Accordingly, we have recommended amendments to the Bill, for consideration by the Portfolio Committee and then by Parliament as a whole.

The HSF’s submission can be found here.

We have also published a brief on the matter, available here, and a technical report, which can be found here.

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Charles Simkins