Independent candidates to be included in national elections

OUTA welcomes Concourt judgment overturning sections of Electoral Act.

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11/06/2020 09:25:58

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Independent candidates to be included in national elections

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) welcomes the Constitutional Court’s judgment in the case of the New Nation Movement and others, declaring sections of the Electoral Act unconstitutional. We believe this judgment should give rise to meaningful amendments to the act, which could reduce the problem of MPs and political leaders placing political party interests ahead of those of citizens and the country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “OUTA joined this case as an amicus curiae (a friend of the court), calling for much-needed electoral reform that will enable South Africans to elect credible leaders as MPs, as opposed to candidates who suit hidden agendas from the backrooms of political parties,” says Stefanie Fick, OUTA’s Director for Accountability. “We were pleased to hear during the judgment that the court acknowledged and agreed with our input. This ruling must be used to drive new electoral law that improves transparency and the accountability of people elected to be Members of Parliament, as Parliament is where meaningful oversight ought to take place.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Concourt declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional because it prevents independent candidates from standing in national or provincial elections, limiting the choice of leaders that citizens are able to select and vote for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA is not associated with and holds no brief for the original applicants or any political party, but regarded this case as a matter worthy of intervention due to the public importance of electoral reform aimed at holding politicians to account. OUTA believes the law needs to be amended, to allow for individuals to stand as independent candidates in national and provincial elections, as opposed to the current system which allows only political party candidates.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “Citizens should have the right to hold their public representatives to account,” says Wayne Duvenage, CEO of OUTA. “The current electoral system is compromised by the lack of moral courage to challenge dubious instructions from the political masters, to whom MPs are very often beholden. This in turn circumvents public accountability.” 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “OUTA is passionate about our hard-won democracy. We have to protect and advance it at all times and we see this judgment as furthering those very critical elements” says Fick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      MPs and MPLs "are bearers of the rights to freedom of association, conscience, expression and political choice,” said Fick in OUTA’s affidavit that supported the New Nation Movement’s application. “They exercise these rights - and, in particular, the right to make political choices - in the discharge of their parliamentary functions, both in their own but also on behalf of the electorate that they represent.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Fick says the current system, which is based on party representation, very often results in MPs and MPLs who are “primarily representative of and beholden to, the political party to which they belong, irrespective of whether their decisions are in the best interest of the electorate or not, thereby placing party loyalty above election promises. Independent candidates are more answerable to their voters as they face a real likelihood of being voted out if they fail to honour election promises. An improved electoral system which allows for independent candidates, will help mitigate the threats to accountability of the party list system.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      For more on OUTA's case, see here

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A copy of the Concourt judgment is here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Picture: Flickr/Xevi V

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.