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Vol 43 No 13

Published 28th June 2002

South Africa

End of an Alliance

Squabbles and scandals are now destroying the only opposition which really mattered

The most serious opposition group, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has been gravely wounded by corruption allegations and political misjudgement. The governing African National Congress is sticking the knife in deeper with a new law allowing elected representatives to defect to other parties without losing their seats. The ANC stresses that such a law operates in most European parliaments but its clear aim is to give it control of all nine provinces and all main provincial and city councils. In the two opposition-controlled provinces, Western Cape and kwaZulu-Natal, enough opposition representatives want to cross the floor to give the ANC majority control. The ANC's advantage is mainly due to opposition incompetence; the biggest personal loser is the DA's Tony Leon (45), whose energetic and pragmatic leadership once rattled the government. The national parliament passed the Floor-Crossing Legislation on 20 June but opposition parties argue that it violates voters' rights and want the courts to stop it. The case, heard by the Cape High Court on 24 June, will probably be referred to the Constitutional Court and the bill will most likely go through. Pressure is mounting for a wider review of electoral law: a cross-party lobby wants to move away from proportional representation to a mixture of candidates' lists and single-member constituencies.

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