4 March 2013

South Africa: Ramphele Nod for Electoral Reform

Johannesburg — Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele welcomed the DA's decision to table a private members' bill in Parliament on Monday proposing changes to South Africa's electoral system.

"Announcing the Agang initiative two weeks ago, I made electoral reform Agang's top priority for Parliament after the 2014 election," Ramphele said in a statement.

"Agang is still developing the detail of our policy, but the fundamental principle underlying it will be that citizens must have the right to choose who represents them in Parliament, to hold them accountable and to replace them if they don't perform."

She said South Africans must feel their votes counted.

The violent protests that had swept the country in the recent months were because people felt "voiceless and powerless", said Ramphele.

Ramphele launched Agang SA, a party political platform, last month in Johannesburg.

She intended using it to contest the 2014 national elections.

Democratic Alliance MP James Selfe tabled the private members' bill in Parliament on Monday.

Selfe proposed the electoral system should be changed to a constituency-based one, ensuring a direct link between MPs and voters.

In response African National Congress chief whip Mathole Motshekga said changing the country's electoral system would not guarantee MPs became more accountable to voters.

Motshekga dismissed the proposal, saying the DA was "guilty of deliberate distortion and overlooking the complexity of the subject of electoral reform".

"If one was to remove the noise, propaganda, lies and dishonesty from the debate on electoral reform, the naked reality remains that a different electoral system is no panacea," Motshekga said.

He insisted the current model of proportional representation, adopted in 1994, was inclusive of minority views.

The 400 seats in the National Assembly are allocated according to the number of votes obtained by political parties in general elections. The DA's Electoral Amendment Bill proposes 100 constituencies around the country, each represented by three MPs.

MPs would be elected by proportional representation, filling 300 of the National Assembly's 400 seats. The other 100 seats would be allocated to MPs from parties' national lists.

Motshekga said the DA's argument that the bill would lead to improved accountability was misleading.

"Improved accountability, which is a critical feature of democracy, is not dependent solely on an electoral system."

Motshekga suggested the new system would disadvantage smaller parties.

"This system, in which parties and independents nominate candidates for each of 400 constituencies, and the candidate who gets the most votes wins the seat, will result in the replacement of the current multiparty system with a two-party system."

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