ELECTORAL REFORM STUMBLES
OUTA is concerned about progress on the Electoral Amendment Bill, a result of the Constitutional Court judgment of June 2020 that ruled sections of the Electoral Act to be unconstitutional, as it blocked independent candidates from standing in national and provincial elections. The Concourt suspended its order of invalidity for two years, to give Parliament time to rectify the law. That deadline is 10 June. OUTA was part of that case as a friend of the court, and in our view there are two problems with the current Bill.
The first is that the Ministry of Home Affairs (which is responsible for the Bill) and Parliament have been very tardy about getting this process underway, with the Bill finally introduced to Parliament on 10 January, which left only six months to process it. This resulted in a rushed public participation process. As the deadline is unlikely to be met, the Presiding Officers of Parliament on 26 April filed an application in the Concourt asking for a six-month extension.
The second problem is that OUTA (and other civil society organisations) believe that the Bill is flawed and is aimed at making as little change to the law as possible, effectively loading the system against independent candidates. OUTA believes this is contrary to the spirit of the Concourt judgment.
OUTA would like to see this Bill reassessed and rewritten, to be more in line with the spirit of the Concourt judgment. If this extension is granted, we hope the time will be used to do this, together with more visible and meaningful public participation opportunities.
We are watching these developments.
You can read more about OUTA’s work on this important project here.