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Centre for Policy Studies (CPS)

Elections and the electoral system in South Africa:
Beyond free and fair elections

CPS Policy brief 39

Shauna Mottiar

Centre for Policy Studies (CPS)

August 2005

SARPN acknowledges the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) as the source of this document:
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Ever since 1994, South Africa has possessed most of the institutions, processes and mechanisms of a liberal democracy. This includes free and fair elections at national, provincial and local levels, effectively extending the franchise to all South Africans. The 1994 elections were criticised for ineffective measures for voter registration, instances of political parties being denied access to voters, and weak administration. By the 1999 elections, however, the voter’s roll had been conscientiously compiled, campaigning had largely adhered to a code of conduct adopted for elections, and the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) management of the elections process had been greatly improved.1 Subsequently the IEC’s administration of the 2004 elections was described as “world class” when judged against internationally recognised criteria for free and fair elections.2

Beyond systematic enfranchisement, elections and electoral systems are vital indicators of the level and extent of democratic consolidation. This paper is a modest attempt to analyse how the South African electoral system and South African elections foster democratic consolidation. There is particular reference to opposition and meaningful debate within the national legislature, the provincial turnover of power and the potential for participatory democracy at local levels.

  1. Lodge T. ‘Consolidating Democracy: South Africa’s Second Popular Election.’ Witwatersrand University Press: Johannesburg, 1999:197.
  2. Piper L (ed). ‘South Africa’s 2004 Election: The Quest for Democratic Consolidation.’ Electoral Institute of Southern Africa. Research Report no 12.

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