Independent candidates: Change to electoral system could benefit ANC
11 June 2020
The Constitutional Court's judgment that independent candidates can stand for elections on provincial and national level should be received with caution. A change to the current electoral system could be such that it benefits the ANC and allows the party to acquire even more seats in Parliament.
There is a misconception among people that the electoral system must ensure that members of Parliament and provincial legislatures are held accountable. That is, however, not the case.
It is the relevant political parties' responsibility to ensure that their representatives are accountable to voters, thus, it is an independent candidate's own responsibility to remain accountable. The electoral system cannot guarantee that.
This standpoint is also expressed in the report by the late Dr Frederik van Zyl Slabbert's electoral task team that investigated whether changes can be made to the electoral system.
If the electoral system is indeed amended, it must be ensured that the final result is still based on proportionality. If the said changes make provision for independent candidates, then it should function in the same way as the current system on local government level functions.
It prescribes that independent candidates may participate in elections, but proportionality is guaranteed. If, however, there is a move to a constituency system, then it will surely play into the hands of the ANC.
The Van Zyl Slabbert report found that if South Africa were to transition to a constituency electoral system, like before 1994, then the ANC would gain an approximate 80% majority in the National Assembly almost overnight.
Independent candidates are very seldom elected seeing as extensive, comprehensive and expensive infrastructure is needed to take part in elections.
Thus, such independent candidates must have the financial ability to pay for expenses like deposits, marketing and a team of supporters to assist in his / her campaign. Ultimately, it is no different from a small, new political party that needs to canvass for votes.
Issued by Pieter Groenewald, FF Plus leader, 11 June 2020