Why electoral reform doesn’t get my vote

Ideas

Why electoral reform doesn’t get my vote

Ditch proportional representation and what has happened in Eldorado Park could well occur on a national scale

Columnist

The debate about prospective electoral reform is charged with a sense of excitement that I think is misplaced. It sounds at times like talk of a daily tablet that will cure cancer or a cheap machine that will end climate change, a piece of wishful thinking obscuring what’s at stake.

Proportional representation (PR), it is said, was a gigantic mistake. MPs are beholden to the party bosses who determine party lists, and are thus frightened and compliant, the legislature weak and insipid. A hybrid system mixing PR with constituency representation will bolster parliament’s independence. MPs will be more frightened of upsetting their constituents than of party bosses. They will, for the first time, actually represent the people who voted them into office.

It may end up working that way, but there’s no compelling reason that it should. The introduction of a constituency system could have a host of possible consequences and it’s impossible to predict how things will pan out. One possibility is that certain forms of extreme and distasteful politics, now reduced to near silence, will come to take an increasingly central place in South African life...

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