Electoral systems and political stability in Southern Africa

Electoral systems and political stability in Southern Africa

In an era of major political transformation, can an electoral system mean the difference between peace and conflict?

Examines the three main types of electoral systems, namely single-member plurality, single-member majoritarian and proportional representation in the context of their use in Southern Africa. Uses case studies of electoral events to considers the strengths and weaknesses of the systems and thier potential for sucess in countries of Southern Africa.

The paper argues:

  • elections and electoral systems could help act either to contain or escalate conflicts
  • elections and electoral systems are crucial,but not the only, ingredients for political stability and democratic governance in Southern Africa
  • a majority of SADC states have embraced the principle of regular multi-party elections and the dominant electoral systems used in the region are first past the post (FPTP)and proportional representation (PR)
  • PR is generally more conducive for stability and broad representation in the process of governance than the FPTP

The study recommends that SADC member states will be better served by PR and that states of the region deliberately steer their electoral models towards this system . One way is to go through a transition mechanism of MMP as Lesotho is attempting to do currently or to undergo a major transition from FPTP to PR as the constitutional review process in Zimbabwe had anticipated. However, the PR itself needs major modifications especially to make the MP more accountable to the electorate.

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