By Andre Viljoen — Editor, Gateway News
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It is not uncommon to hear Christian voters say that while they admire the Christian and family values of a certain party they will not vote for it because it is too small to make a difference. They will rather vote for a strong opposition — or perhaps even for a strong Government — depending on their views.
This line of thinking is not as valid as it may sound when you consider our proportional representation electoral system which gives minority parties an opportunity
to have a voice in Parliament. In South Africa a registered political party receives a share of seats in Parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes cast for it in the election. A party that attracts as little as 0.25 per cent of the votes therefore earns a seat in our 400-member National Assembly and has a voice in making laws and overseeing the implementation of those laws. If that party was the hypothetical party I referred to in my opening sentence, and if all the voters I mentioned in that sentence overcame their ‘smallphobia’ and voted for it, its voice in parliament could easily be doubled, trebled, quadrupled or multiplied by an even greater factor. That would not be a waste of a vote at all for voters whose cherished values would receive much more focus in the vital legislative process.
Recent history shows that small parties can and do influence the drafting of laws. In a recent Facebook post, Cheryllyn Dudley, one of three African Christian Democratic Party MPs in Parliament catalogues some of the party’s achievements in influencing the shaping of laws in many areas including Basic and Higher Education, Safety and Security, Trade and Industry, Agriculture and Land, Minerals and Energy, International Relations, Health, Social Development, Finance, Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Private Members Bills, Water And Environmental Affairs, Public Enterprises and much more. The African People’s Convention (APC) is another illustration of the fact that significant influence can come in small packages: the leader,former Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) Deputy President, Themba Godi, is its only representative in parliament and since 2005 he has chaired the strategic Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) which is responsible for ensuring accountability for public money spent by government.
MPs from small parties that are committed to values that are important to you can play a valuable watchdog role, resisting attempts to introduce laws that are in direct conflict with your beliefs, or spotting ‘bad’ clauses in otherwise ‘good’ laws and coming up with viable alternatives. Christian parliamentarians may be found in
most, if not all of SA’s political parties. They may be performing a valuable role in their respective parties. But if during the course of passing laws, a big party takes a strong position on an issue, all of its MPs may be required to toe the party line, even if it is against their principles.
As Christian voters we have a responsibility to make a God-honouring choice as we exercise our right to vote in the upcoming National Election. We should consider the values and the track record of the different parties. We should not vote out of blind party loyalty or habit or fear. No other person has a right to pressure or
manipulate us into voting a certain way. And if, after sincerely pursuing this approach to voting, we cast our ballot for a big party or a small party, we have every reason to anticipate that our vote will make a difference!