Smaller political parties have questioned the threshold proposed by the ANC and DA that will be used to allow parties to get a seat in a council or National Assembly.
The UDM, Good Party and NFP said this was closing the democratic space for smaller parties if the issue of threshold were to be implemented.
The ANC and DA have proposed that for a party to get a seat either in council or parliament, it must get at least 1% of the vote.
Deputy President Paul Mashatile convened a national dialogue on coalitions in Cape Town for two days, where political parties, analysts, academics and diplomats are attending.
The government has said the issue of coalitions must be resolved urgently to avoid unstable governments going forward.
South Africa is preparing to hold national and provincial elections next year and the prospects of a coalition government remain high.
Opposition parties have already started discussing the possibility of coalitions if the ANC does not get more than 50% of the vote.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the threshold proposed by both the ANC and DA was off the mark.
“Regarding the seat threshold we must be careful to speak of this to not be seen to be undermining the spirit of the Constitution that promotes multiparty democracy.
“Let each party express their own opinion on the matter in their manifesto and then the voters will have the last say. As we speak many parties have registered with the intention to participate in the 2024 elections. How are we going to change midstream?” said Holomisa.
He believed that it was not fair to use a yardstick approach to punish political parties in an untested theory that the current instability of local government is because of the proliferation of political parties.
“It is worrisome when this theory comes from the big parties,” said Holomisa.
GOOD party leader Patricia de Lille said the issue of threshold was against the constitution and the spirit of democracy.
“Introducing a legally imposed threshold, arbitrarily suggested at 1% or 2% of the vote, threatens to close down the democratic space some of us in this room fought so hard for.
“The proposal to introduce a legal threshold must be rejected with the contempt it deserves,” said De Lille.
NFP MP Munzoor Shaik Emam said the threshold sought to marginalise smaller parties and this must not be allowed.
He said even late former president Nelson Mandela allowed for democracy to thrive through a number of voices.
Smaller parties will not be able to contest elections and hold government accountable. Shaik Emam said this must not be allowed to happen.
“The marginalisation of smaller should not and must not be considered. The NFP will support amendments. However, we are not satisfied with the threshold you are talking about. We don’t believe it’s in the interest of democracy,” said Shaik Emam.