Electoral reform bill needs complete rewrite

Fiddling with a bill that’s missing the point isn’t going to improve electoral democracy

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28/09/2022 08:25:00

        Picture: GovernmentZA

        Electoral reform bill needs complete rewrite

        The Electoral Amendment Bill needs to be rewritten to ensure that it is constitutionally compliant.

        OUTA joins other civil society organisations (CSOs) in rejecting this bill.

        In September, OUTA made a second submission on the Electoral Amendment Bill in response to Parliament’s calls for further comment.

        Unfortunately, Parliament seems to have no interest in genuine electoral reform which would enable independent candidates to compete fairly in national and provincial elections. The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs asked for comment only on very specific aspects of the bill, which do not address all the core problems with it.

        Instead, Parliament is tinkering with its inadequate version of the bill, wasting time, so there will not be an effective amendment to the law in time for the 2024 elections.

        We believe this version of the bill does not meet constitutional requirements and we are concerned about how this will affect the 2024 elections.

        Specific issues OUTA commented on are:

        • Should independent candidates contest more than one region for a seat, the votes cast in the regions not reaching the highest figure will be discarded, which limits proportional representation;

        • In order to contest a seat, independent candidates are required to provide identity numbers and signatures of at least 30% of the quota of votes needed for a seat, but a political party needs only 1 000 voters to sign its deed of foundation;

        • If an independent candidate vacates a seat, those votes will be discarded and the seat is awarded to the candidate or party with the next highest votes, which means the seat may go to a party rather than an independent candidate;

        • Independent candidates contesting in more than one region cannot aggregate their votes, so votes in some regions will be wasted.

        To underline our objection to this bill, OUTA joined other civil society organisations in a protest outside Parliament on 16 September.

        “OUTA remains concerned over the lack of public participation and education campaigns. Several requests from CSOs, which OUTA has endorsed, have been directed to the Portfolio Committee. The requests were to collaborate on the concerns raised and to recommend changes that will be within the interest of South Africans. The Portfolio Committee has not reciprocated these requests by extending an invitation, and have instead decided to ignore these calls,” says OUTA’s submission.

        “Every adult South African has the right to stand for public office and contest elections as

        an individual and if elected, to hold the office into which she or he is elected. Together

        with this, every vote ought to count and not be wasted.”

        More information

        Comment by OUTA's Parliamentary Engagement and Research Manager Rachel Fischer is here.

        OUTA’s second submission on the bill is here.

        OUTA’s first submission on the bill is here.

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