Calls by the ANC to have the electoral system reviewed after its most devastating local government elections have been echoed by NGO the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac).
“What we are saying is, let’s have a discussion on the issue of our political system, which needs to be reviewed and the electoral system should be part of that process,” said Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo.
Comments made by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe were met with suspicion when he raised his concern over the fairness of the current electoral system.
Political analyst Eusebius McKaizer penned a column for the Cape Times yesterday saying that the party’s motives for calling for a review of the electoral system were “suspect” given how much the party lost support in this month’s polls.
Asked if the ANC could have benefited from a more traditional system than the current one, Naidoo told The Citizen that, in some places, the ANC could have been better off in a system that only counted ward votes.
“The ANC would have benefited in some municipalities and not in others. The more wards you win, the fewer seats you will be allocated, because that is part of the balancing act with proportional representation votes.
In local government elections, South Africa’s two-ballot system is a hybrid that blends proportional representation (PR) with what is traditionally referred to as the first-past-the-post (ward candidate) system.
“It’s a combination of ward and PR (public representation) votes, and the more wards you win the fewer seats you will be allocated because that is part of the balancing act. In places where the ANC won fewer wards they would have won more seats,” said Naidoo.
In her law thesis published by the University of Pretoria in 2011, Isabella Moses Warioba points out that both these systems posed problems in many African countries.
“Countries using both systems have their fair share of problems regarding elections and democracy in general. For example, inadequate representation in the parliaments, lack of accountability and unstable governments.”
She recommends that the ideal electoral system for African countries should follow proportional representation, but the list should be open to allow voters a say as to who among the candidates would make the list. This system is similar to how South Africa’s electoral system works, giving equal weight to both PR votes and ward votes with open candidate lists.