Double crossing
Published September 18th 2005 in Cape Times
There have been some amusing moments to the floor-crossing farce, mostly arising from attempts by some of the so-called crosstitutes to dress up their moves as being motivated by principle.

But generally speaking the whole process has been one that has damaged the standing of our politicians and, therefore, our democracy.

The central flaw in the current floor-crossing system arises from the fact that our electoral system is based on proportional representation. Public representatives are thus not elected in their individual capacity, but from a party list.

A side effect of this is to make the individual beholden unto the party bosses, but the floor-crossing system only exacerbates this.

And it further compounds the problem by making public representatives completely unaccountable to the electorate once they have got into parliament, the provincial legislature or local government.

All of which gives rise to the sort of rubbish we have heard spoken by various floor-crossers in the past week or so. Very few of those who changed parties during the recent window period appear to have been genuinely driven by anything other than personal gain.

Surely it would reflect better on our public representatives were they to resign from their posts if they were honestly motivated by issues of principle.

And surely it would be better for the country as a whole if the government dusted off proposals to replace the current electoral system with one that combines proportional representation with a constituency-based system.

This would achieve two aims. It would make public representatives directly accountable to their public (who could vote them out at the next election), and it would weaken the insidious powers of party bosses to make their representatives toe the party line in all circumstances.