ELECTORAL REFORM: UNRESOLVED CONCERNS COULD THREATEN DEMOCRACY
We bring you an important update on the state of electoral reform. Unfortunately, the recently enacted legislation has missed the mark, failing to address critical concerns that impact the fairness, transparency, and accountability of our electoral system.
We've voiced these concerns, highlighting their potential impact on election outcomes and citizens' representation in the legislature.
Our concerns include:
• Proportionality woes: The introduction of a three-ballot system, with two ballots for the National Assembly and one for the relevant provincial legislature, raises concerns about fair representation.
• Limited opportunities for independent candidates: Independent candidates face restrictions, as they can only contest 200 seats in the National Assembly without access to the remaining 200 compensatory seats.
• Wasted votes: The aforementioned limitations may result in wasted votes, effectively meaning that the will of the people goes unrepresented.
• One seat limitation: Independents can win only one seat in the National Assembly once votes reach the seat quota, potentially limiting their influence.
• Excess votes discarded: All excess votes are discarded, further diminishing the impact of voters' choices.
• Complex vacancy solutions: Should an independent MP vacate their seat, a by-election will not occur. Instead, a recalculation will take place, which may result in a political party getting the seat, again going against voters’ wishes.
• Barriers for independent candidates: Independent candidates face significant barriers when running for Parliament, such as the signature requirement, which is 15% of the seat quota. This may be as much as 8000 signatures which the independent must collect even before being able to register.
It is now up to the Electoral Reform Consultation Panel, which must be established within four months of the amendments being gazetted, to address these concerns. OUTA insists that the panel comprises unbiased experts in the field. We also stress the importance of including civil society organizations on the panel, as this amended Act directly affects the citizens it represents.
Both the panel and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) have their work cut out for them. It is crucial that they work tirelessly to ensure that the upcoming 2024 elections are constitutional, free, and fair.
To learn more about this critical issue, we urge you to read the full story here.