Early election in South Africa?

Could the intraparty leadership conflict within the African National Congress (ANC) result in early elections? All Africa reports that it is being considered. However, it takes a majority of all members of the National Assembly to call early elections, so if only one of the contending factions–those led by current President (PM) Thabo Mbeki and his likely successor Jacob Zuma–voted for dissolution, it could happen only with the consent of the opposition. Which is not likely forthcoming.

A consideration of the ANC factions is the construction of party lists for any possible early election:

Sitting ANC MPs, who would have to vote in numbers to dissolve Parliament, might not be keen on the idea as their primary concern would be to gain electable positions on the party’s list for the scheduled 2009 election. The new lists will be compiled after list conferences late next year. It is not clear whether the election would be held according to the 2004 lists or whether there would time for new lists to be compiled.

South Africa, as discussed here previously (see the South Africa planting before this one, and in particular its comment thread), is one of the very rare cases of a parliamentary system in which the head of government is subject to a term limit. The head is called President because, in addition to being chosen by and responsible to parliament, the head of government is also the head of state. Mbeki has been President since 1999 and would hit his constitutional ten-year limit with the scheduled 2009 election, so he is a lame duck.

The National Assembly is elected by closed-list PR, in large districts, and there is also a separate national list. In other words, list rank is pretty much everything in this system, and the ANC, as a hegemonic party, has a lot of safe list ranks to hand out.

0 thoughts on “Early election in South Africa?

  1. Term limits plus dissolvable terms sound like a bad combination. Does Mbeki have to resign in mid-year once his two terms are up – if, say, there were an early election in 2008, he can be re-elected but only until 2009? Or is he ruled out if he’s already been elected twice?

    Of course, to me term limits are a bad idea full stop (except for judges, but that’s a whole nother thread: http://tinyurl.com/28ybn8)

  2. Wasn’t South Africa going to change it’s PR system to a more localized PR system with small multi member districts?

    The question is how can a party win such big majorities under List PR. Isn’t this an exception to the rules like India the exception to FPTP? Most countries, this system of PR would lead to paralysis and excessive fragmentation.

    Most parties around the world would dream of winning majorities as big as the ANC has and there is no excuse for the oposition that it is the electoral system to blame.

    Is it possible for the ANC’s majority to be significantly reduced in the 2009 election? What party will be able to win a signficant amount of the votes to give the ANC a run for it’s money?

    On the terms limits aside, why couldn’t the constitution be amended just requiring no president serving no more than 10 years because the definition of a term is imprecise if parliament can be disolved.

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