South Africa: 2003 floor-crossing period

Extracted from: Susan Booysen & Grant Masterson 2009 "Chapter 11: South Africa" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 436-437.

The five-year floor-crossing era of 2003 until 2007 on national and provincial levels (legislation ended the practice in early 2009) brought many important changes to party-political representation in South Africa's elected institutions. Although this chapter does not specifically deal with local government elections, it was initially the local government elections of 2000 that triggered the floor-crossing developments. Floor-crossing would impact on national and provincial representation in 2005 and 2007, and at other times also on local government representation. This section deals with the 2003 impact, whilst the 2007 and 2008 patterns are assessed after the section on the 2004 election results.

Prior to the 2000 local government elections, the DP and the NNP, and later the tiny Federal Alliance (FA), joined forces and formed the Democratic Alliance (DA) to jointly contest the local government elections. This cooperative action was prompted by the NNP's fear of being decimated in the local polls, following its poor 1999 national and provincial performances, and the DP's desire to grow. The DA initiative ended bitterly in 2001 when the NNP broke from the DA and entered into an alliance with the ANC. The dissolution of the DP-NNP (DA) alliance triggered floor-crossing, the first time it happened in South Africa (see 2003 National Assembly floor-crossing outcome). The NNP and ANC (facilitated by the ANC's parliamentary majority) engineered a process whereby NNP councillors leaving the DA were able to retain their seats. Initially opposed to the idea of floor-crossing, the ANC changed its approach when the opportunity of usurping the NNP proposed arose. It was an opportunity to both weaken the DA and strengthen the ANC's position in the Western Cape. The floor-crossing legislation also paved the way for Patricia de Lille, hitherto a PAC MP, to resign from the PAC and establish her own micro-party in parliament, the Independent Democrats (ID), which would subsequently gain representation via the 2004 elections (and retain some of it in 2009).