True Democracy: The Price of running in elections


The contemporary cultural message of South Africa is that of democracy, diversity and inclusivity. We are a society which claims to be based upon the ideals of equal, free and fair elections – yet are we truly following those principles?

There is a lot of merit in the South African parliamentary system on paper. The proportional voting system allows all minorities, majorities and demographics to be represented politically and voice their opinions. But if this is the case, why are there only two true powers in our political system?

South Africa is home to over 237 parties and many more political movements. Voters are not stumped for choice, but more and more we find the so-called educated South African voter rather abstaining from contributing to the electoral process due to their claims that the DA and ANC do not satisfy their principles. It is sad, however, that so many parties that do will not receive that vote due to the simple fact that running for election in South Africa has become too expensive.

Above advertising, running and campaign costs, there is also an election deposit which is required. At the moment, this deposit can reach above the amount of R200 000. If a seat in the National Assembly is won, the money is returned, but otherwise it is forfeited.

Many smaller parties which have run in the past have stated that it is no longer worth it. They simply cannot afford this cost while also running an effective campaign. What I find the most abhorrent about this policy is that it encourages the very thing which we should be aiming to stop in a democracy.

A genuinely prosperous democracy requires an impartial government, but by forcing parties to seek major financial backers, this system is doing more to create Big Business tools rather than politicians who wish to create real progress. The system of overly priced election deposits creates nepotism and crony policies.

Many try to justify this ludicrous amount with the fact that the Electoral Commission needs to create some sort of stopgap to keep back every Tom, Dick and Harry that wishes to run. This is, of course, true, but it is no justification. In a real democracy, if Tom, Dick and Harry want to run, let them! This is a democracy, and every citizen has the right to contest elections. Well, on paper at least. Sadly, the current price keeps the majority of potential contributors to political thought from even entering.

Hopefully, things will change, but in the meanwhile I implore everyone to do more than just pay attention to the two big players in government. There are a myriad of smaller parties which deserve attention, and may be the very party you actually support.

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