IRR to publish key report on electoral reform in South Africa

4 November 2022 - On Monday 7 November, the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) will be publishing an analysis of the current state of electoral reform in South Africa by Michael Atkins, a highly respected independent elections analyst and leading authority on electoral reform in the country.

On Monday 7 November, the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) will be publishing an analysis of the current state of electoral reform in South Africa by Michael Atkins, a highly respected independent elections analyst and leading authority on electoral reform in the country.

Says Hermann Pretorius, IRR director of communications: “The IRR is immensely proud of this opportunity to work with Michael Atkins. He is a man respected on all sides for his integrity, independence, and intelligence. This publication, The Road Ahead for Electoral Reform in South Africa, is the first of two reports the IRR has commissioned from Michael, the second to be published next year on the matter of election integrity.

“Michael’s analysis of elections and electoral systems in South Africa is unparalleled in terms of analytical rigour, honesty, and independence. From the start of our collaboration with him, we’ve been more than happy to grant his request for analytical independence. Having worked and consulted with Michael over some months now on various issues related to elections, we are happy to let his insights stand and be considered on the integrity of his and the IRR’s credibility and good-faith engagements on this crucial matter of electoral reform.”

Here follows the introduction of The Road Ahead for Electoral Reform in South Africa:

“With the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill through Parliament, it is necessary to examine the question of electoral reform in greater depth. We need to understand where we are with the Bill and understand how we got here. Somehow, we need to chart a course through the 2024 national and provincial elections, and then we need to go back to square one and start a rational and meaningful process of electoral reform.

“The Electoral Amendment Bill is premised on the logically absurd inclusion of individuals in proportional representation elections, alongside party lists. While there are partial precedents for this, they do not translate at all into our electoral and constitutional framework. All of the complications with the Bill, all of the contradictions, and all of the difficulty in conducting meaningful discussions, have arisen from us ignoring the underlying absurdity.

“Unsurprisingly, the logical contradictions translate to outcomes that are unfair either to independent candidates, or to voters. Any such unfairness, or any of the inevitable numerical distortions, render the Bill unconstitutional. There is no other logical outcome. And yet, from the moment the particular electoral system was proposed (in its' original form) within the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), the incipient problems have existed.

“Under the injunction of the Constitutional Court, Parliament is pressing ahead, and we are caught, as in a vice-grip, between the absurdity of the Bill, and the imperative of the court, and the holding of the 2024 election. As the Bill is processed by the National Council of Provinces, and is then likely signed by the President, we have to take stock and consider how we avert the implementation of a confusing and unfair electoral system, how we conduct the 2024 elections, and then how we engage in valid and meaningful electoral reform.

“We can't merely adopt a wait-and-see approach. As difficult as it is, there is still time to do these things, and still conduct a valid and fair election in 2024 (albeit not necessarily an entirely constitutionally valid one). But there are several tripping points on the road, and it would not take much for us to fall into a trap of our own making. In 2021, we narrowly avoided an electoral and constitutional meltdown. It is inconceivable that we should put ourselves in the frame for the same type of panic again.

“But even as we face these electoral and constitutional storms, we also have before us the prospect of real change, and of meaningful electoral reform that many have been crying out for. A good electoral system does not guarantee good outcomes for a country, but a bad electoral system almost certainly does guarantee bad outcomes. It is therefore necessary to look beyond the immediate constitutional crisis (for this is what it is) and consider how we go about the process of electoral reform, and what choices we have available to us.”

The Road Ahead for Electoral Reform in South Africa will be published on Monday 7 November on the website of the IRR at https://irr.org.za/reports. The link to the report will also be published on the IRR’s social media on Facebook and Twitter.
 

* Afrikaans-language media are requested to retain the acronym ‘IRR’, rather than using ‘IRV’.

 

Media contacts: Hermann Pretorius, IRR director of communications – 079 875 4290; hermann@irr.org.za
Marius Roodt, senior analyst at the IRR – 082 779 7035; marius@irr.org.za

Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za
Sinalo Thuku, Tel: 073 932 8506 Email: sinalo@irr.org.za

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