Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Floor crossing, which comes to a close at midnight tomorrow night, was the subject of a reportedly riotous debate in Parliament yesterday, and rightly so. Many of the opposition parties originally lobbied for its introduction in 2001, but yesterday all but the ANC called for its scrapping.

The problem for smaller parties is simple. Floor-crossing can only take place if 10% of the party seeks defection, which for a smaller party of say 20 seats, is easily reached. For the ubiquitous ANC, about 27 MPL's have to seek defection, which is a significantly harder prospect. If 20 MPL's were to seek defection the law would prevent them from doing so. This holds the huge disadvantage for opposition parties.

The disadvantage for the general public is that we lose total respect for our MPL's, and most importantly, our process of democracy. It's a natural result of our proportional representation system, where seats are allocated as opposed to voted out of a constituency. This concludes that the MPL is accountable to party only, rather than the people, and with every floor crossing comes a disappointing inference of the impotence of the democratic voting process. Proponents will argue that it reflects the MPL acting in the best interests of his or her abilities to influence policy, but to me, it will always be an MPL acting in his or her own interests of power at the abject disadvantage to those that voted the MPL into Parliament.

In my opinion, floor-crossing largely does far more harm than good, and is a misguided principle that denigrates the strength of what South Africans fought for in their new democracy. It should be scrapped immediately. Will it happen? Not with the ANC in power.