Expect more coalitions with entry of independents

Independent candidates previously were only allowed to run for office at local government level.
Independent candidates previously were only allowed to run for office at local government level.
Image: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP

One of the outcomes of the Constitutional Court ruling allowing independent candidates to be elected to parliament and provincial legislatures is it that it makes coalition governments far more likely in the future.

This is according to University of Johannesburg political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana, who spoke to Dispatch in the wake of Thursday’s decision declaring certain sections of the Electoral Act are unconstitutional.

Parliament has been given two years to remedy the situation.

Independent candidates previously were only allowed to run for office at local government level.

Ndletyana said he was not surprised by the court’s decision.

“In 2018 there was in a separate judgment where the chief justice said there was nothing in the constitution  preventing independent candidates from contesting national elections, and that there was a continuous outcry about the inability of the current system to provide direct accountability for MPs,” he said.

The big takeout would be that voters would have a far greater choice of candidates when they went to the polls, he added.

“The implications of the ruling should be a welcome development, especially since we have been complaining about the poor calibre of candidates parties tend to send to parliament.

“Multiplicity of contestants is not a problem; it means we have many options to choose from.

“We might have  some credible candidates who get significant number of votes. There is a greater  likelihood of contestants not getting a majority which might mean we might have a coalition at national level.”

The business community has noted the ruling with interest.

Border-Kei Chamber of Business executive director Les Holbrook said it appeared courts were increasingly being approached to resolve SA’s issues.

“The candidate would have to separate duties — let's see how they roll it out — but I do see some glitches in this matter,” he said.

Holbrook could see an independent running for president in the future, but  “right now all business is doing is trying to survive”.

“You won’t have anybody finding time to climb on the political bandwagon.”

A manager of a charity, who asked not to be named as her organisation is funded by the government, described the ruling as “fantastic”.

“I am surprised it took us this long to come to this ruling. It should have been far earlier,” she said.

“This might move us away from the concept of party before country.

“The president will still  be elected from the National Assembly, and the whole proportional representation system will still apply, but  it is a positive step to move away from the party line.”

Many citizens had lost faith in political parties, she said.

“My plan is to go to vote in next general election. I might have a candidate I feel I could vote for who is not from any party.”

Some are not convinced independent candidates will have an easy time of it, however.

The Council for the Advancement of the SA constitution (Casac) believes political parties still wield tremendous power in the electoral system.

“Parties will still be here. They will in all likelihood still command the majority of the seats in the national and provincial legislatures, and on that basis will still be able to have their preferred candidate elected as president or premier,” Casac’s Lawson Naidoo said.

Members of the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures still had the power because they have to decide who to nominate and who to vote into position. As the 400 members they “will collectively decide who the president is going to be”. — Additional reporting by TimesLIVE


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