Accountability vis-à-vis representation : a pluralist examination of the South African electoral system

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    It is crucial to the realisation of a functioning pluralist society that an appropriate balance should exist between consensus and participation; government should perpetually be aggregating societal sentiment and manifesting such in legislation and policy. Society should perpetually refine such consensus via various participatory avenues which constitute the connective tissue between state and society. In the case of the South African electoral system – an instance of such connective tissue – this involves an appropriate balance between representation and accountability. Representation is required in order to ensure a plurality of interests is accounted for, and accountability is enforced in order to ensure that such interests are effectively and appropriately manifested in legislation and policy (a check upon governmental capacity). The South African electoral system in its current guise does not adequately ensure such a balance. This is somewhat problematic in that, in the absence of such a balance, substantial schisms may well emerge between public will, governmental enactment of such will and codified consensus. There is an acknowledgement of the unique South African socio-political context and an acknowledgement that individual electoral accountability does not implicitly ensure governmental capacity. Electoral reform – in addition to concurrent reform in other areas – is undoubtedly a necessity in ensuring that South Africa becomes a liberal democracy in practice as well as in structure.