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Proportional representation and racial campaigning in South Africa

Year: 2004
Author: Davis, Gavin
Unit: DARU
Journal: Nationalism and Ethnic Politics
Volume: 10
Pages: 297–324
DOI: 10.1080/13537110490467739

This analysis of election campaigning in South Africa demonstrates that those parties that invoke an exclusive "us and them" message fare better than those that attempt an inclusive "catch-all" strategy. This conclusion has important implications for the debate over the best electoral system for a divided society. It is suggested here that list proportional representation encourages the growth of a centrifugal party system where the most successful parties are those that "outbid" their competitors for the votes of the groups they principally represent. It is quite possible that, over time, South African political parties will "learn" that the most successful means of mobilizing voters is to play on the fears and aspirations associated with their race, thus exacerbating racial tensions.

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13537110490467739