Democratic Representation: A Critical Assessment of the Current South African Electoral System

Authors Loammi Wolf

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Research Advisor, Sanlam Centre for Public Management and Governance, University of Johannesburg
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 132 Issue 4, 2015, p. 780 – 818


Although proportional representation of political parties is generally better suited to ensure more accurate voter representation than majoritarian electoral systems, the current electoral system is problematic in so far as it only allows voters to vote for political parties and not for candidates of their choice. That shifts the constituent power of elected representatives in legislative bodies from the collective of individual citizens to political parties, in contravention of ss 3 and 42(3) of the Constitution. The political rights guaranteed by s 19 of the Bill of Rights are also compromised. These rights are inalienable individual rights of citizens. Section 57A of the Electoral Act 73 of 1998, which provides for pure proportional representation of political parties with no option being provided to voters to select candidates of their preference, or for independent candidates to stand for political office, has ousted s 19 political rights in contravention of s 36 of the Constitution. Other models of proportional representation that would be in conformity with the Constitution are therefore explored. Certain deficits relating to the equal treatment of political parties are also discussed. These deficits affect the fairness of elections.