Choice is wide open for par­ties to form coali­tions

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NOLOYISO MTEMBU

PO­LIT­I­CAL par­ties con­test­ing the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions next month have a choice to en­ter into coali­tions or re­main stead­fast in their ide­ol­ogy and risk be­ing left out of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

This would ap­ply in highly-con­tested ar­eas where no po­lit­i­cal party won an out­right ma­jor­ity, se­nior po­lit­i­cal sci­ence lec­turer at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, Col­lete Schulz-Herzen­berg said.

The elec­tion, to be held on Au­gust 3, will see res­i­dents in the Western Cape queu­ing to cast their votes for rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the prov­ince’s metro, five districts and 24 lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils.

The DA is in con­trol of 23 of the 30 coun­cils, with coali­tions, in some in­stances with Cope and/or the African Chris­tian Demo­cratic Party (ACDP).

The ANC runs six coun­cils in coali­tion, but has a ma­jor­ity in Beau­fort West.

The Ka­roo Ge­meen­skap Party runs the Prince Al­bert lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the cen­tral Ka­roo.She said while the DA en­joyed the ben­e­fit of be­ing the prov­ince’s rul­ing party, and a track record, it was not clear how mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would look post-Au­gust 3. “It will be a chal­lenge for the voter who, in the case of new par­ties, has to rely on the party’s im­age, rhetoric and at­tributes to make a de­ci­sion,” she said.

“It is cru­cial for the voter to re­flect on ac­count­abil­ity and ask them­selves if the in­cum­bent party is serv­ing them well. Could some­one else do it bet­ter?”

Schulz-Herzen­berg said vot­ers had to re­mem­ber lo­cal polls gave them the op­por­tu­nity to choose who gov­erned their im­me­di­ate ar­eas of res­i­dence.

“The ANC has al­ways en­joyed sup­port, but with par­ties like the EFF com­ing in, they will feel the pres­sure of win­ning an elec­tion,” she said.

But how well do vot­ers know the elec­toral sys­tem?In­for­ma­tion from the ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing unit for Democ­racy and Devel­op­ment (ETU), an NGO which deals with train­ing on elec­tions, shows that mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions are a lot more com­pli­cated than the na­tional poll.

“Our lo­cal elec­tions use a mixed sys­tem. Half the seats in lo­cal and metro coun­cils come from the pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion sys­tem and half from the con­stituency (ward) sys­tem,” the or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

“Pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion is where a voter votes for a party and the party gets seats ac­cord­ing to the per­cent­age of votes it re­ceived. Can­di­dates are drawn from a party list. This sys­tem pro­tects smaller par­ties since all votes count. In our na­tional assem­bly a party with 0.25 per­cent of the vote will still get a seat.

“The con­stituency- based sys­tem elects an in­di­vid­ual to rep­re­sent an area. It is called ‘the win­ner takes all’, since only the per­son who gets the most votes is elected, and all votes cast for other peo­ple count for noth­ing.”

This means on elec­tion day next month, res­i­dents of metropoli­tan ar­eas will re­ceive two bal­lot pa­pers, one for their ward and an­other one for the pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion can­di­date.

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