Choice is wide open for parties to form coalitions
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.