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date: 18 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

South Africa’s post-apartheid election outcomes demonstrate how contextual factors interact with electoral rules to shape party systems. South Africa’s national electoral system represents one of the most permissive in the world, combining parliamentary rules with an extreme form of proportional representation. These rules were selected to encourage broad representation of parties in the National Assembly. However, South Africa’s party system consistently defies expectations, with a low effective number of seat-winning parties at the national level and dominance by a single party, the African National Congress (ANC). Provincial and municipal outcomes also confound simple institutional expectations. In addition to describing electoral rules and party systems at all three levels of South Africa’s political system, this chapter argues that contextual factors like the salience of racial divisions and the ability of the ruling party to shape institutions and resource flows critically interact with electoral institutions to shape party system outcomes.

Keywords: South Africa, electoral systems, proportional representation, mixed-member plurality electoral rules, single-party dominance

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