Robert B. Mattes, Amanda Gouws and Hennie J. Kotze, "The
Emerging Party System in the New South Africa," Party
Politics , 1 (July, 1995), 381-395.
In April 1994, South Africa held an historic election in
which for the first time all its citizens could vote. As
expected, its choice of a proportional representation
electoral system yielded a multi-party system. Seven parties
qualified for representation in the national parliament
(half the national seats were chosen from a closed national
list and half from nine closed provincial lists; provincial
assemblies were also chosen from nine separate closed
lists); eight parties gained representation across the nine
new provincial parliaments. Yet what are the prospects of
South Africa developing a truly competitive multi-party
system and avoiding evolving into the one-party-dominant
system that has characterized many other emerging
democracies? This report presents evidence concerning these
prospects from a recent national post-election survey.
Figures and Tables:
Table 1: The distribution of party identification (%).
Table 2: Party identification by province (%).
Table 3: Strength of party identification (%).
Table 4: Party identification and the national vote (%).
Table 5: The double ballot (%).
Table 6: 'Defections' at the national and provincial levels
by strength of party identification (%).
Table 7: Consistency of April and September voting
preferences according to strength of party identification
Table 8: Reasons for party identification (by party support)
Finally, the particular conceptions of competitiveness and
uncertainty that we have used are shaped heavily by the
rules of normal parliamentary cabinet government. However,
alternative constitutional designs might 'redefine' our
criteria of competitiveness and uncertainty. Under the
normal conditions of parliamentary democracy, it is
presently doubtful whether the ANC will need to form a
coalition with any other party for the next few elections.
Among other things, one consequence could see smaller
parties deciding to merge with the ANC in order to have any
chance of influence, thus further weakening the system's
competitiveness. But if South Africans decide to perpetuate
their present parliamentary form of government in the final
constitution (to be negotiated by 1999), the continuation of
the present proportional cabinet could be a crucial way to
retain some measure of competitiveness and electoral
uncertainty. This is because the national governing party
would be forced to worry not only about shifts of support
that might affect its majority status, but about any shift
in support that could alter the crucial distribution of the
number as well as the importance of cabinet seats among the
political parties who meet the required minimum