South Africa: 2005 and 2007 floor-crossing periods

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, 443-445.

The entrenchment of a 'dominant party system', with the ANC growing its majority in consecutive general elections in 1994, 1999 and 2004, was further entrenched by the defections of MPs from other parties to the ANC in the 2005 (see 2004 National Assembly Floor-crossing outcome) and 2007 (see 2007 National Assembly floor-crossing outcome) floor-crossing periods. In both these instances, the ANC emerged as a net winner, whilst the majority of the opposition parties lost out to the ANC. This happened either directly through members defecting to the ANC, or indirectly with the reduction of their numbers of seats through the formation of factional micro-parties. As floor-crossing periods approached, allegations of bribery, intimidation and enticement became common practice amongst political rivals, with parties often resorting to warning their own MPs of the consequences of defection whilst actively recruiting MPs from other parties. By the end of the 2007 period, the ANC's dominance of the legislature was absolute, with a total of 297 of the 400 MPs in the ANC fold. This gave the ANC 74.25 per cent of representation in the National Assembly. The DA, IFP, UDM and ID were all net losers by the end of the 2007 period. The IFP lost four seats to the newly formed National Democratic Convention (Nadeco), a splinter faction of the IFP formed in 2005. Subsequently, the South African Democratic Convention (Sadeco) would also split off Nadeco. Nadeco was the only one of the five 2005 floor-crossing-formed parties that would contest the 2009 National Assembly elections, but it would not gain electoral representation.

Popular sentiment, however, had been turning against the practice of floor-crossing, and voices were increasingly raised for its abolition. ANC supporters and party functionaries came to strongly oppose it. Whilst this sentiment may appear unusual to emerge from the only political party to consistently have benefited from the floor-crossing, it was at least in part due to floor-crossers frequently being rewarded with party positions. They were seen to be jumping rank within the ANC. The ANC national conference in Polokwane in December 2007 mandated the ANC's NEC to review the practice. The 2007 window of national-level floor-crossing was therefore the last before the practice was outlawed in January 2009.