In a democracy voters elect members of parliament to represent their interests. Members of parliament are usually called ‘MPs’. MPs provide a crucial link between government and the people. As MPs are elected representatives, they must be accountable to citizens and they must act in the public interest. This means that they have temporary mandates and are accountable in to voters. Voters do not have to re-elect them if they are not good public representatives or if they do not deliver on their promises. Most MPs belong to a political party and also represent their political party in parliament. However, some MPs do not belong to a political party and are elected as individuals in their own right, and are called ‘independents’.

As members of parliament, MPs are primarily responsible for ensuring that the work of parliament is done. Generally, MPs ensure that Parliament provides a forum for debating important national issues, passing laws, and holding the executive branch of government accountable.

All MPs are in powerful positions and can influence important laws and decisions that affect millions of people. There may be times when their personal or business interests conflict with their ability to look after the public interest. All elected MPs at the national, provincial and local levels must record their personal business and outside interests in a public register so that citizens can monitor any unethical or corrupt behaviour.

Remember that you can find out who your party MP is in your area and contact them about issues that affect you! Remember that you must contact parliamentary MPs for national issues, MPLs for provincial issues, and your local councillor for concerns that relate to your immediate area.