The Dichotomy Between Large and Small Political Parties

A New Perspective on Electoral Volatility in South Africa

  • Pieter Labuschagne University of South Africa
Keywords: Democratic Consolidation, Extra-System Parties, Proportional Representation, Vote-Share, Within-System Parties


This article investigates new political party formation in South Africa within the broader context of voter volatility. The political party system has displayed high levels of stability, but the unrestrained and rampant formation of new political parties that contest in each election could destabilise the system. The number of entrants rose to an unprecedented 28 before the 2019 elections and contradicts the support for older, established parties in each election since 1994. In theory, the within-system stability in South Africa, with an on average 90% voter share between established parties, impedes the scope for the formation of new smaller parties. In reality, support for new parties remains low. This article explores why this does not serve as a deterrent for the formation of new parties. The article shows that despite the increasing number of new entrants, their impact on stability and consolidation in the country is negligible.

Author Biography

Pieter Labuschagne, University of South Africa

Pieter Labuschagne from Pretoria (South Africa) is an emeritus professor at the Department of Political Sciences at Unisa and former Chair of the Department between 2011-2015. He received the following degrees in Political Sciences from the Universities of the Free State and South Africa: BA (1983); BA (Hons) 1984; MA (with distinction) 1986; DPhil 1990; LLB 1997; LLM 2001: LLD 2007. Prof. Labuschagne’s interests include political dynamics, sport and politics and criminal law.


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How to Cite
Labuschagne, P. (2020). The Dichotomy Between Large and Small Political Parties: A New Perspective on Electoral Volatility in South Africa. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 44, 44-62.