18 January 2009

Voter apathy -- Has floor-crossing been abolished?

Today I passed a poster of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) urging people to register to vote, and that made me wonder about floor crossing.

Floor crossing has been a significant factor in voter apathy, and I know many people who saw no point in voting or even registering to vote because one's vote could be nullified within 18 months by members of parliament and other legislative bodies crossing the floor to join other parties.

I have heard rumours that floor-crossing had been or was about to be abolished, and wanted to find out more about it, to see if it was worth registering to vote. I did a Google search, but it was not particularly informative, and the most positive thing it turned up was this:

Floor-crossing to be abolished - South Africa - The Good News:
Floor-crossing to be abolished Monday, 21 April 2008

The government has approved constitutional amendments to ban the floor-crossing of Members of Parliament and Ward Councillors, reports The Times.

The Bills containing the amendments were passed by the Cabinet on Wednesday and are due for publication for public comment before they are tabled in Parliament.

The two Bills are intended to abolish floor-crossing in the national assembly, provincial legislatures and municipal councils, Justice Ministry spokesman Zolile Nqayi told The Times.

It seems there was an intention to abolish floor crossing, but it is not clear whether these bills were actually brought before parliament, and if so, whether they were voted on and passed.

If the bills were indeed passed, and floor crossing has been abolished, and there will be no more crosstitutes, that is indeed good news, but I suspect that the public is largely unaware of it. If the IEC want to encourage people to register as voters, then that is something they need to give more publicity to, otherwise many people just won't bother because that they believe that floor-crossing is still possible, and that their vote is therefore worthless.

So why not mount a publicity campaign to inform the public that crosstitution is a thing of the past (if indeed it is). That might go some way towards restoring faith in our democracy.


Pistevo said...

interesting to see the different views on floor-crossing in different countries.

on comparison - in Australia, floor-crossing is never seen because anyone who crosses the floor would lose their seat at the next election.

ironically, voters are supposed to be voting for people, not parties. if anything, we might decry the lack of freedom that an MP has to represent his community.

no doubt this has something to do with the different voting system in South Africa - we have members of parliament representing small, particular areas versus (what i believe is) people who the entire country votes for and ostensibly represent those x-ten thousand people in the country.

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Contents [hide]
1 History
2 Floor crossing in practise
3 Criticism and controversy
4 List of Parliamentary floor crossings
5 See also
6 References

Floor crossing in South Africa was a controversial system under which Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Legislatures and Local Government councillors could change political party (or form a new party) and take their seats with them when they did so. Floor crossing in South Africa was abolished in January 2009.

Floor crossing was originally enabled by amendments to the Constitution of South Africa and other legislation passed by Parliament.[1] The amendments removed clauses requiring members of the National Assembly to give up their seats should they change parties. According to the void amendments, floor crossing was only permitted twice in an electoral term, in the second and fourth years after the General Elections, from the 1st to the 15th of September.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of floor crossing.[2] A bill to amend the constitution to again prevent politicians from keeping their seats when joining other parties, dubbed "crosstitutes", was tabled in parliament in 2008. This was a consequence of the decision of the African National Congress at its December 2007 national congress in Polokwane to reject floor crossing. [3] The bill was passed by Parliament and floor crossing was subsequently abolished when President Kgalema Motlanthe assented to the constitutional amendment 6 January 2009. [


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