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Deliberative Democracy and Electoral Reform in South Africa: A Campus Experiment

Thursday, February 25, 2016, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

In the transition to an inclusive democracy, South Africa changed its electoral system for the national parliament to proportional representation. Ever since, there has been an ongoing debate about electoral reform. In the fall of 2015, I organized a Deliberation Day on Electoral Reform in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. This campus experiment in deliberative democracy was part of a project-based course that I taught as the Van Zyl Slabbert visiting professor. The results are as predicted in the literature on deliberative polls: the knowledge of the 47 student participants increased and their opinions became more coherent. The student participants were highly critical about South Africa's political system and demanded more accountability through the electoral system. The most striking, and encouraging, outcome was the unanimous support for more deliberation on campus, especially as South African universities were shaken by widespread student protests last year.

Prof. Dr. Matthijs Bogaards is a visiting professor in CEU's Department of Political Science. He is convening the conference "Post-Communism in Africa" at CEU, May 26-28, 2016.