It has seemed for some time past that there was little likelihood that changes would be made to the electoral system.
In fact that particular door seemed to have been locked, chained and bolted with Merafhe’s unfortunate aphorism, ‘if it ‘aint broke, why fix it’? sounding its effective death knell. But now all of sudden, the BDP has come up with far reaching proposals for change These have been duly reported but have otherwise prompted little reaction.
The assumption seems to be that what has been proposed is the business of the BDP alone. It is the BDP which has come with the proposals, it is the BDP which will discuss, consider and agree and it is the BDP in the National Assembly which will use its majority to push through its wishes, more or less regardless of alternative views. Yes, it is possible that the BDP will show little interest in the views of those outside its own party ranks.
On the other hand, it will know that whilst it will achieve widespread support if it gets its changes right, it will come a cropper if the voting public comes to believe that what is proposed (and agreed) amounts to little more than a fiddle designed to improve the party’s electoral chances.
After all, it is probable that the electorate will be convinced that the BDP has been converted to the idea of change only because its support base has slipped so badly.
Previously it was well content with the first past the post system which seemed to have served it well. Nevertheless, and whatever the motivation, the fact is that the BDP now seems open to change so that everyone who is concerned about the country’s democratic health, should seize the opportunity and speak out.
Electoral change or electoral reform is everyone’s business. It would be tragic, therefore, to throw away this opportunity to contribute, to criticize what has been proposed and perhaps to come up with better ideas. So let me take my chance and make a start as far as limitations of space allow. Firstly, the proposal to increase the number of nominated MPs and Councillors in order to allow for the better representation of the poorly represented comes as a routine re-run. In 50 years the party has never, I believe, used this mechanism to do what it professed it intended to do.
The probability, perhaps certainty, is that it will continue, as in the past, to use the opportunity to increase its voting power.
Secondly, the concern (Weekendpost 5 December) that constituencies are too big, ‘thus compromising service delivery’ puzzled me.
It can always be argued that constituencies are too big and that they either have too many people living in relatively concentrated areas or too few people dispersed all over the place.
So does ‘big’ relate to population or distance? Which of those two does the BDP conceive as being the problem it seeks to overcome? But ‘compromising service delivery’ was a new one for me. What service delivery? Are MPs and Councillors, unbeknown to me, up to their necks battling with this particular responsibility so that the party feels that an increase in numbers would help to relieve the pressure!
So I turned to Google and what do I learn? “Service delivery” it states ‘is a common phrase in South Africa used to describe the distribution of basic resources citizens depend on like water, electricity, sanitation infrastructure, land, and housing.
Unfortunately, the government’s delivery and upkeep of these resources is unreliable - greatly inconveniencing or endangering whole communities.
In response, the number of “service delivery protests,” or protests demanding better service delivery, have become more popular in recent years. So popular, in fact, that the term “service delivery protest” has become a loosely used term by the media to define various types of protests.’
Okay, the problems in South Africa and the problems here are similar. But the fact is that widespread protest has yet to happen here.
It can only be disingenuous therefore to suggest a solution here to a problem which exists there.
But in addition, power is so centralized in this country that no MP however he or she is elected is likely to become involved in dealing with local protest whatever form it takes. In addition, it can also be noted that one of the greatest curiosities of our current democratic system is that MPs who have been elected to serve their constituencies have ended up serving their party.
In other words, a central element of one electoral system has been so blurred that it has taken on the characteristics of a totally different system.
In that sense, we already have X number of MPs who act as if they have been proportionally elected. It follows therefore that we need to have a first time ever definition of the role of MPs, according to the different systems, before, we can start arguing that we have too few, Perhaps we already have too many!