In May 2002, the South African government appointed an Electoral Task Team (ETT), headed by Dr Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert and composed of a mix of academics, lawyers, electoral specialists and senior officials of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), to consider the case for reform of the country’s proportional representation (PR) electoral system. The latter had provided the framework for the highly successful conduct of South Africa’s first two democratic elections in 1994 and 1999, yet the country’s final Constitution (promulgated in 1996) had dictated that the electoral system should be reviewed, with the proviso that any change would result ‘in general’ in proportional representation. In the event, the ETT submitted a majority report that recommended adoption of a Mixed Member Proportional Representation system (MMP) (although the report did not call it that) and a minority report that favoured retention of the existing national list system of PR. The government responded by accepting the recommendation of the minority report, ensuring that the 2004 general election would be conducted along exactly the same lines as the two previous elections, although recommending that further consideration be given by the new Parliament to electoral system change. Consequently, now that the African National Congress (ANC) has been returned to power with an increased, and overwhelming, majority it is appropriate not only to consider anew the case for electoral reform but to assess the political dynamics which would appear to determine its likelihood.
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Categories: Journal of African Elections