EDITORIAL | Welcome to power, small parties. SA’s fate is now in your hands

The danger of this new political landscape is that minority interests will play too big a role in the forging of coalitions

04 November 2021 - 20:18

The people have spoken in the local government elections, but it’s not at all clear what they’ve just said. The upshot of this is that we will have more hung councils this time round than in 2016, as many as 52, and that in many municipalities no one party has captured the loyalty or allegiance of voters in large enough numbers to serve as an acting majority. Potentially, it is a moment of great danger for SA, especially if one accords with the view that a widespread and growing disillusionment with politics could in the future give rise to populist “saviours’’, who reawaken these sleeper-voters. On the other hand, it is a moment of great potential.

While SA’s constitutionally defined political system is rightly criticised for putting too much power in the hands of party bosses, the inclusion of the proportional representation system in some way compensates for our not having a constituency system, in which representatives have to account to actual voters. When the constitution was written, proportional representation, which is widely used in Europe, was the unspoken sop to minorities, who would nonetheless be governed by a party chosen by a simple democratic majority...

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