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The Constitutional Court ruled last week that the Electoral Act of 1998 is unconstitutional to the extent that it prevents individuals from contesting national and provincial elections. The court’s decision was met with excitement on social media and quickly led to speculation about which prominent South Africans might run for president in 2024. At last, it seemed voters would be able to hold elected representatives directly accountable to improve governance and service delivery. This excitement is misplaced.

The appeal case brought by the New Nation Movement and three other applicants was specifically about challenging the Electoral Act for infringing the right to freedom of association and the right to run for office contained in sections 18 and 19 of the constitution. As such the case concerned the electoral system: the rules that determine how elections are conducted and how results are calculated. It was not about SA’s system of democratic governance — whether we have a p...

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