South Africa’s top court, in a landmark ruling recently, struck down a section of electoral law that bars candidates from running for parliament if they are not affiliated to a political party.
The decision, in a case brought by civil society organisations, will see voters in post-apartheid South Africa directly electing their lawmakers for the first time.
“It is declared that the Electoral Act… is unconstitutional to the extent that it requires that adult citizens will be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislature only through their membership of political parties,” said Judge Mbuyiseli Madlanga.
“Requiring citizens to exercise the right to contest elections and hold office only through political parties subverts (the constitution),” the judge said.
“The deficiency in the Electoral Act to the extent that it fails to enable adult South Africans to stand as individuals is inconsistent with the constitution,” he added.
Members of the National Assembly, the powerful 400-seat lower house in parliament, are currently elected indirectly.
Voters cast ballots for political parties, and the seats are then shared out for each party according to a system of proportional representation.
Each party then distributes the seats according to a list of pre-selected members — a system that critics say promotes loyalty and patronage over commitment to a constituency.
Among the major parties, the African National Congress (ANC), in power since the end of apartheid in 1994, won last year’s legislative elections with 57.5 percent of the ballots cast.
The centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) came second after it garnered 20.7 percent.The radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters took the third largest number of seats after winning 10.7 percent of the vote.
Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane tweeted the “judgement is going to change the game.
“It is going to give more power to the people, more flexibility to those who want to serve without the drama of some of these old organizations. This is freedom”.