Electoral Reform

ELECTORAL REFORM: updated Version:

Definitions:

  • SMF:  Senate and Municipal Forums
  • IEC:  Independent Electoral Commission.
  • MDPN – Municipal, District, Provincial and National.
  • NCV – No Confidence Votes
  • MP – Member of Parliament.
  • PC – Provincial Councilor
  • PR – Proportional Representation.
  • DC – District Councilor
  • MC – Municipal Councilor
  • Executive – Members of Cabinet, Provincial Executive Councils, Municipal Management and Executive Councils, Mayors, Premiers, Presidents and Vice Presidents and their deputies and municipal managers and service delivery management.

Elections:

  • Elections are based on constituencies defined by the IEC under the auspices and control of the Constitutional Court
  • All elections for MDPN Legislative Assemblies will follow a 4 year cycle.
  • The elections for each respective MDPN Assembly will occur in the First, Second, Third and Fourth year from the date of a National General Election.
  • Alternatively, Municipal and District elections will occur in the Second year and  Provincial and National Elections in the Fourth year from the date of the prior National General Election.

Terms of Office:

  • Elected representatives in all MDPN Legislative Assemblies shall serve four year terms of office, from the date of their election or will serve untill the date of the next election.
  • The proposed SMF Senators and Representatives shall serve for two years, with the oldest serving half of each body being replaced annually.

Candidates:

  • Candidates for elected MDPN assemblies stand in their own names for the constituencies in which they reside.
  • Candidates for MDPN legislative Assemblies are nominated by voters of those constituencies, as follows: 
    •  Municipal candidates require nomination by say 200 voters from their constituencies.
    • District candidates require nomination by say 300 hundred voters from their constituencies.
    • Provincial Candidates require nomination by say 400 hundred voters from their constituencies.
    • National (Parliamentary) candidates require nomination by say 500 voters from their constituencies.
    • When there are fewer voters in a constituency than are required for nomination, the IEC in collaboration with a magistrate for the constituency can authorise the name/s to appear on the voters roll for such constituencies.
    • This means, in theory, that each candidate would need to secure nominations from, 200, 300, 400 or 500 voters, respectively, registered in their respective constituencies.
    • It should be noted that 500 signatures are required in support of a new political party registration, so the threshold for a parliamentary candidate is quite high.
  • Each candidate who has been thus nominated will appear on the ballot sheet for that constituency for the first round of voting.
  • If there are more than (say) 5 candidates, the 5 candidates who secure the most votes in the first round ballot will go forward to the next round of voting.
  • If there are less than 5 candidates on the ballot sheet, all those on the ballot sheet will go forward to the next round of voting.
  • At the second round, if there is no clear winner receiving 50%+1 of the votes the three candidates receiving the least votes will drop off the ballot for the next round.
  • The voting will continue until there is a clear winner receiving 50%+1 (or more) of the vote

Funding for Candidates:

  • Nominated candidates shall be funded and resourced equally by the IEC sufficient that they can mount an effective campaign to address the needs of their constituencies and constituents.
  • Government shall provide the IEC directly with the necessary funds in order to meet the above requirement.
  • The IEC shall provide the candidates directly with those funds and resources and the candidates shall directly make use of those funds and  resources.
  • Those funds and resources must be used in support of the candidates’ candidacies and may not be used for any other purpose.  
    • To use the resources or funds for any other purpose shall be a criminal act.
  • Directly means that no body or organisation of whatsoever nature may receive those funds or resources or make use of those funds or resources on behalf of or in place of the intended candidates.
  • The candidates shall account in detail to the IEC on how they disbursed those funds and how they made use of those resources..

Means of Appointment: 

  • At each round of the elections, voters may vote for three candidates of their choice, in order of preference, first, second or third preference.
  • The First choice gives the candidate three votes, Second choice gives the candidate two votes and third choice gives the candidate one vote.
  • The votes are accumulated for each candidate.
  • The candidate recording the most votes is elected.
  • In the event of a tied vote or there being no clear winner with 50%+1 of the vote, the tied candidates or the three candidates with the most votes each go forward to a further round of voting until a clear winner emerges.

No Confidence Votes:

  •  Each voter may cast a vote of no confidence in the candidates, in place of voting for any candidates.
  • In line with the votes, a NCV carries a three, two or one vote which the voter can select while voting.
  • The votes are tallied for the NCV votes as for candidate votes..
  • The NCV totals are carried into the resulting assembly as a proportional vote against every bill or motion before the assembly for the duration of that assembly’s term.
  • Thus, if NCV votes are equal to 25% of all the votes cast, the assembly would need a 66%+1 majority to give an effective 50%+1 majority for that vote for that assembly.
  • In effect the NCVs mean:
    1. The elected members carry an NCV handicap into the affairs of the assembly.
    2. To correct that, for the next election or round of the elections, candidates and the parties that support them have to win back the confidence of their constituents so they are willing to vote for the candidates and not the NCV.

Hung Parliament:

  • A hung parliament is a parliament where no business can be conducted because it does not have the necessary authority or legitimacy (by way of an available majority vote) with which to function.
  • A Hung parliament can occur if there are more NCVs than there are votes for candidates.
  • So, if the total NCVs amount to 50%+1 of all the votes cast in an election, the Parliament cannot function and is effectively a Hung Parliament
  • If the parliament consistently is unable to conduct business because it cannot muster a majority vote (accounting for NCV votes) Parliament cannot function and is effectively a Hung Parliament.
  • In the event of a Hung Parliament:
    • The Cabinet and the Presidency are suspended.
    • Parliament is suspended
    • The country must go back to the polls, again, until a functioning parliament results.
  • An equivalent process shall be followed for any other national, provincial, regional or municipal assembly.

Recall Votes:

  • After one year from an election date, Voters can remove MPs , District Councilors, MPCs and MCouncillors by recall votes or in the case of OPEN PR Lists, these lists can be re-ordered so the worst ones fall off the list (as in Norway).
  • Constituency based petitions submitted to the IEC,  with the same support required for candidates to appear on ballot sheets, can trigger a recall vote.
  • The IEC must hold  Recall Vote within 30 days of the date of submission of such a petition.
  • The IEC must declare the results of the vote no more than 7 days from the date of the Recall Vote
  • Parliament and the affected member are bound by the results of the recall vote.

Impeachment:

  • The IEC must run weekly approval polling for the executive at all levels of government.
  • Where the approval polling reaches a given low (or where disapproval level is significantly high, depending and to be defined)  such polls can trigger impeachment hearings.
  • The following bodies can conduct impeachment hearings on their respective executives.
    1. Parliament, The Senate, Provincial Councils, Provincial Senates (if they exist), District Councils and District Forums (if they exist), Municipal Councils and Municipal Forums.
    2. To be clear, the Parliament and or the Senate can jointly or severally impeach members of the National Executive and Municipal Councils and or Municipal Forums can jointly or severally impeach members of municipal executives, and so on.
  • These bodies 
    1. must initiate impeachment hearings if triggered by IEC polls.
    2. may initiate impeachment hearings if a motion to do so is passed by a simple majority (50%+1) or a super Majority (66%+1) vote, of the relevant body (choose one).
    3. In this case, NCV votes count for impeachment.
  • Impeachment hearings must be conducted by an appropriately ranked member of the Judiciary (for example a High Court Judge in the case of a national executive impeachment hearing or a lower court judge in the case of a municipal executive hearing), with two assessors, and counsel for and against impeachment, as in a normal court action.
  • The body conducting the hearings will act as jurors on the matter of the impeachment and a simple majority (or super majority) (choose one) for impeachment will decide the matter.
  • If a member of the executive is impeached, he is dismissed immediately from his post and may never stand for re-appointment to that or any other post in any executive in South Africa.

Parliamentary Vote of No Confidence:

  • If a government is unable to pass its agenda through parliament, parliament can call for a vote of no confidence in the government.
  • If a vote of no-confidence in the government is passed, this would normally result in the government falling and for hopefuls to seek support for the formation of an alternative government (note, not an alternative parliament).
    • Often in such a fractured government this can lead to coalition governments drawing on the support of more than one parliamentary party or group.
  • Consistent failure in this effort can lead to a President dissolving Parliament and calling for a general election.

Other means of Direct Democracy:

  • Other means of Direct Democracy should be embraced:

Snap Elections:

  • A snap election can be called in such circumstances.
  • Usually such an election can occur with as little as 30 days or up to 90 days warning and is often called by a government under siege of parliament in order to change the composition of parliament and in the hope that a newly constituted parliament will support the government’s agenda.
  • Elections of this nature are effectively referendums on the desire of the voters to retain or discard the existing government.

Referendums:

  • Referendums usually are issue-specific elections.
  • They are often called by extra-parliamentary groups seeking to introduce a law or agenda that a government is otherwise unwilling to support.
  • Process:
    • Usually a group or individual will put a proposal to the electorate in the form of a petition, which must be signed by a minimum number of registered voters.
    • If the necessary support is achieved a referendum is held in which all the voters in a constituency can vote on the proposal.  
    • These constituencies can be local, regional or national.
    • Often, a single referendum may be held for more than one proposal.
    • Usually a simple majority is required to pass a referendum.
    • If a referendum is successful, the proposal becomes law.   

Senate:

  • Strictly speaking the Senate and Municipal forums should not be part of an electoral debate because …
  • The Senate and Municipal Forums are not elected but selected bodies, selected by a process called Sortition.
  • Sortition:
    • Is a process of random selection from amongst volunteers
  • Peer Groups:
    • In the DDF Model, the volunteers are identified by their demographics, which the DDF label Categories and Peer Groups.
    • Categories included are (in no particular order):
      • Age,
      • Culture
      • Education.
      • Gender
      • Income
      • Occupation,
      • Religions
      • Traditional Rulers
    • The Categories are further identified as Peer Groups, as follows:
      • Age: 13 to 16, 17 to 20, 21 to 35, 36 to 50, 51 to 65, 66 to 80, 81+
      • Culture: Zulu, Khosa, Sotho, Mixed, San, European, Asian
      • Education: No Formal, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary. Graduate, Post Graduate
      • Gender: Male, Female, LGBTQ
      • Income/Wealth: Poverty, Low Income, Middle Income, High Income, Super Rich
      • Occupation: Unskilled, Skilled, Artisan, Professional, Student, Academic, Home Carers (Incl Domestic Workers)
      • Religion: Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Hindu, Atheist, none.
      • Traditional Leaders: one group.
        • This list is not definitive and may be changed as needed and without derogation of the rights of any existing peer group.
        • Each peer group has equal rights and duties within the Senate.
        • Perhaps there should be a further category, viz Provincial, and the Council of Provinces should be absorbed into the Senate.

Selection:

  • Initially, ten volunteers are selected by sortition for each peer group.
  • Each year,a further 5 are selected and replace the 5 oldest serving members of each peer group, who drop out from the Senate.
  • In the first cycle, the 5 to drop out are selected by lottery and or volunteer to drop out.
  • Past members:
    • Can volunteer for selection in a future Senate
    • Can work for the senate in support or other roles (mentors & etc) if suitably qualified. Having previously served as a Senator would be a recommendation and could be a qualification for such roles.
    • Past members of the Senate (even those employed in various roles in the Senate or perhaps in Municipal Forums) return to the streets as ordinary members of society, that is, without favour or privilege.
      • This will encourage Senate members to act in their own best interests for when they return to the streets and therefore, hopefully, in the best interests of their peers in the streets.
  • The actual selection process is ‘names out of a hat’ (or an equivalent process) for each peer group, from the volunteer population.

Function and Purpose:

  • The purpose of the Senate is to serve the interests of all the people of the land.
  • The function is to approve or reject Legislation and or Regulation emanating from Parliament ( The Legislative assembly) and or the Executive.
  • Simply put, Parliament and the Executive no longer approve their Bills and Regulations, but must seek the approval of the peoples’ house (the Senate) for those proposals to become law.

Voting:

  • Each Senator has one vote.
  • There are three choices.  They are for or against the motion or for a referendum.
    • If a simple majority of votes are for a referendum, then that triggers a referendum for that proposal
  • The Senate needs a Super Super Majority (say 80%)  to approve legislation or regulation presented to the Senate for approval.
    • The purpose of that  is that no regulation or legislation is approved without the support of the vast majority of the Senate and therefore, hopefully, the people .

Veto:

  • Additional to the voting (above), any peer group may apply to the constitutional court (is this really necessary?) to apply a veto on a matter which has been approved by the Senate as a whole, but which prejudices the interests or rights of, or discriminates against, that peer group.
  • Where a peer group is thus prejudiced but is not represented in the Senate, any other peer group may go through the Veto process on behalf of the unrepresented peer group.  
    • (eg. The LGBTQ peer group might veto a bill prejudicing ‘same gender parents’, which group may not be represented in the Senate).
  • Such a veto may be adopted with a simple majority of the peer group or with approval of the whole of the peer group (choose which).

Abuses of the Senate:

  • Abuses of the senate, that is applying external undue pressure or influence on a senator or peer group or the Senate as a whole, including attempts at bribery or such other similar acts of influence, will be deemed to be a criminal act.
    • This obviously precludes the efforts of support staff (such as mentors or expert consultants or MPs, speaking for or against matters) who are engaged by the Senate to inform the Senate or Senators on matters before the Senate, from being labelled as abusers of the Senate.
  • Any Senator who succumbs to such influence will be removed from office  and face criminal prosecution. 
  • Any person who engages in such abuses will face criminal prosecution. and if found guilty, will face the harshest sentences possible under the law.

Municipal Forums:

  • Municipal forums and their members are selected from the constituencies of the municipality of which they are a part, but otherwise function in exactly the same manner and have exactly the same purpose and function as the Senate, but their jurisdiction is that of the Municipality of which they are a part.
  • Additionally, it is suggested that the peer groups of each Municipal Forum have (say) 4 members each, instead of the proposed 10 members of the Senate peer groups.

What follows is the precursor to the above. The above is a more complete policy.

PDF: Electoral Reform 200820

Many South Africans are interested in electoral reform. The DDF have a number of proposals that the DDF would implement: These proposals are intended to strengthen the principles of direct democracy and would probably be enshrined in a new-look constitution to prevent political meddling in the electoral process.

The use of no-confidence votes and no-confidence seats (see below) is intended to give relevance to the opinions of voters who have no confidence in the parliamentary candidates and or no confidence in the choices offered by political parties, a relevance which has ongoing consequences for the resulting parliament for the full term of that parliament.

  1. All elections will be constituency based.
  2. All candidates will stand in their own name/s as candidates for a given constituency. They may identify as members of a political party or as independent candidates, but they stand and are elected in their own rights as member/s of parliament for a given constituency.
  3. One or more candidates (depending on the size of the constituency), are elected by the voters in that constituency.
  4. All candidates shall receive equal financial and resource support from the Independent Electoral Commission vis a vis Media Access and Campaign Funding. This must be sufficient to mount an effective campaign. This support is not intended to preclude similar support from political party and other private (i.e. non-government) sources for political party agendas and policies, but any such additional support may not be used for specific candidates at constituency level. Other than the preceding, government may not act in any manner at all to interfere with or influence electoral campaigns or outcomes.
  5. In the event that there are many candidates registered for a constituency, a preliminary round of voting would be held to determine which candidates will actually contest the final round of voting. What number of candidates would trigger a preliminary round of voting needs to be determined, but we suggest more than five candidates would trigger such a preliminary round of voting.
  6. All members of parliament shall be accountable to the constituencies they represent and not to the political parties they support or which support them.
  7. Each member of parliament may be recalled by a vote of the constituency’s voters, at any time from one year after their election. This would trigger a by-election for the constituency / seat.
  8. There would be an accessible process managed by the Independent Electoral Commission to facilitate and trigger a recall vote and any subsequent by-election.
  9. At a general election or a by-election, voters will be given the option of voting for a listed candidate or of recording a vote of no confidence in all the listed candidates and or the political parties. The overall no confidence votes will count as a parliamentary percentage negative vote for any proposal before an elected parliament Thus if 25% of the voters overall recorded no confidence votes, the actual elected members of parliament will only represent 75% of parliament and will have to overcome the 25% no confidence vote in bills before parliament (see item 11 (below)).
  10. If the no confidence vote is a majority vote in a constituency, that constituency would record the member of parliament for the constituency as a negative voting member in all bills before parliament.
  11. Further to 9 and 10 (above), overall no-confidence votes would be allocated a representative portion of seats determined for parliamentary voting purposes. Thus if 25% of votes cast were no-confidence votes in a parliament of say 400 seats, the 400 elected seats would represent only 75% of the seats, and a further 134 seats, less those directly elected as no-confidence seats (see 10 (above)), would be allocated to account for the 25% no-confidence votes.
  12. 50%+1 parliamentary seats are required to vote for a bill in order for the bill to become an act of parliament. This 50%+1 must account for the no confidence seats recording as votes against the bill. Thus if 25% represented the no confidence vote, parliament must muster 66% or more of the remaining elected seats for the bill to become an act of parliament.
  13. A different no-confidence vote (say a 24% or 26%, or whatever) would require a greater or lesser degree of voter support from the remaining seats to achieve the 50%+1 majority needed to pass a bill before parliament.
  14. If there is a majority of no-confidence seats in parliament, the parliament will be a hung parliament and will need to be re-elected in a subsequent general election.
  15. If the overall no confidence votes cast in an election represents 50%+1 or more of all the votes cast in that election, the resulting parliament would be a hung parliament and would need to be re-elected in a subsequent general election.
  16. To be clear, elected members of parliament would need to represent 50%+1 of votes cast, overall, and 50%+1 of the available seats (accounting for seats allocated from the overall no confidence votes and the actual no confidence seats), for parliament to function.
  17. Bills before parliament would need an absolute majority of members of parliament voting for a bill (counting any no confidence seats as votes against the bill), for a bill to be passed.
  18. To be clear, a member of parliament carries the votes of the entire constituency he represents, but not the no-confidence votes for that constituency. Thus if a constituency of say 15 000 voters cast 10 000 votes for all candidates and 5 000 no confidence votes, the elected member represents all the 10 000 voters supporting the candidates. The 5000 no confidence votes cast are added to the overall tally of no confidence votes in that parliament.

The proposed Senate is not an elected body. Senators are appointed from the streets by a process called sortition, which effectively is random selection from volunteer peer groups (say; peers by age, income, education and so on) so as to provide a house populated by a representative cross-section of society.

DDF SENATE PROPOSALS VINDICATED

There is a saying that all will come to those who wait. Being proactive I am not sure I agree with the sentiment. But recently something happened illustrating it’s relevance.

Some 60 years back in the 1960s, when I was about 15, I was pondering how a political process whereby a political fringe had managed to capture a perfectly adequate dual house parliamentary system and impose a largely unwelcome and undesirable system (the apartheid system) on the masses of the population of a country (SA), could have come about. From that came a proposal for an upper house of parliament (I called it a house of censure) which was drawn from the streets rather than the political establishment, and through which all legislation and regulation must be passed for approval. Of course I was 15 or so, and nothing came of it beyond it being a proposal.

Over the years, the proposal became more sophisticated and concrete and I stopped calling the house one of censure, and identified it as a Senate.

In the 1990s, when the CODESA was in process I submitted my Senate proposal to CODESA l and ll, as many did. The proposal was ignored. I happened at the time to be living across the road from Mac Maharaj, then the ANC’s spin doctor. I challenged him on the fact that my proposal had not even been acknowledged. He stood on the other side of his gate and held his hand about chest high above the ground and said, what did I expect them to do with a pile of proposals that high. The inference being that CODESA was a farce and was merely a vehicle to impose the opinions of the few on the many and is merely a sop to consultation. I learned this form of consultation is typical of the ANC.

Time moved on. In 2012 the Direct Democracy Forum was formed using TEAL and the Senate proposals as the foundation of DDF policies. These policies have since been added to by a Basic Income Grant and a Sovereign Wealth Fund (amongst other policies).

Now in 2018, I read an article published June 2016 in the Guardian’s long read series, by David Van Reybrouck titled “Why elections are bad for democracy” arguing very persuasively that representative democracy and elected politicians are failing us, their constituents, where “common interest lose out to short term and party interests”, and where “winning the next election has become more important than fulfilling the promises made in the last”, and that in it’s place was needed something like “the central principle of Athenian democracy, drafting by lot, or sortition”, where those drafted were immersed in the details of every legislative and regulatory proposal and so could vote from an informed position on the issues. Thus ” a cross-section of society that is informed can act more coherently than an entire society that is uninformed”.

How does that vindicate the DDF Senate policies? It does so because sortition describes exactly what the DDF Senate policy is about.

It is significant that sortition is being used more and more to resolve issues that party-political electioneering and periodic visits to voting stations have been unable to resolve. This has occurred “in the US, Australia and the Netherlands” and most innovatively in Ireland. In December 2012, a constitutional convention began, drawing on “33 elected politicians and 66 citizens, drafted by lot, from both Ireland and Northern Ireland” .. who .. “met one weekend per month for more than a year”.

In this, the Irish approach, the convention drew up proposals to go before parliament. In the DDF approach, the Senate would be required to approve or reject legislation or regulation emanating from Parliament or Cabinet. So one is doing it one way, the other is doing it the other way. But the same essential principle is being applied. Get the approval of ordinary opinion, first or last in the process, but getting that approval is essential, which ever way you do it.

I believe all of this vindicates the DDF’s Senate policy and proposals and although it is a 60 year old story for me, the story still has some chapters to be written. Those chapters cover implementing a sortition Senate and the many more chapters thereafter where sortition builds a better South Africa for all.