Is our electoral system contributing to voter apathy?

With elections less than two weeks away, many South Africans are giving serious thought to how they can use their vote most effectively.

There's concern about the registration numbers for young people and a perception of a defeatist attitude which says 'voting for a small party won't achieve anything'.

Would changing our current proportional representation system get more people to the ballot box?

Refilwe Moloto discusses this topical issue with Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Our problem is that the ANC continues to get roughly about 60% of the vote, as many people think it will in the forthcoming poll. So however badly it does, we seem to get a party elected by the majority of those who vote.

Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology - University of the Witwatersrand

Increasingly, the system seems to be turning people off.

Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology - University of the Witwatersrand

It's often heard, in this election, the people saying who am I going to vote for and I suspect that we will get a fairly low turnout compared with previous years. And that is not a good thing for our democracy.

Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology - University of the Witwatersrand

Southall says there is a standing suggestion from the Electoral Systems Commission to move to a mixed member plurality system.

In other words you would keep the benefits of proportional representation, which I think most people in this country are agreed, that we want maximum representivity.

Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology - University of the Witwatersrand

On the other hand, you would also have the situation where every individual MP also has a base of constituents and would have to look downwards to constituents as well as upwards to the party.

Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology - University of the Witwatersrand

It would mean individual voters would have somebody to turn to - you are my MP, you have this responsibility to do A, B and C.

Roger Southall, Professor of Sociology - University of the Witwatersrand

For more of this important discussion, click on the link below:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Is our electoral system contributing to voter apathy?


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