Vijay Padmanabhan


Democracy’s Baby Blocks: South Africa’s Electoral Commissions

Vijay Padmanabhan

Like many other transitional democracies, South Africa has chosen to run its two national postapartheid elections by an independent electoral commission, not by the existing government. Although the results were widely considered legitimate, the perception of legitimacy was due in large part to the public’s low expectations. To keep the public confidence, and to avoid the sorts of large-scale breakdowns in the electoral process that might undermine it, the current Electoral Commission must embrace major reforms. One of the Electoral Commission’s most pressing problems is the fact that opposition parties believe it is strongly biased in favor of the ruling political party, the African National Congress. The Electoral Commission also has failed to devolve meaningful power to provincial officials, increasing the risk that it will botch the details of election management. The author proposes several measures to help resolve these concerns.