The constitutionality of the Electoral Amendment Act will take centre stage at the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.
This as the apex court will hear applications from the Independent Candidates Association of South Africa and the One SA Movement on an urgent basis.
The Electoral Act was amended to allow for independent candidates to contest national and provincial elections.
The landmark victory of the New Nation Movement in the Constitutional Court resulted in the amendment of the Electoral Act, paving the way for a new electoral system which will see independent candidates contest national and provincial elections.
When the new bill was presented for comment during the legislative process it was open to much scrutiny.
CASAC Executive Director Lawson Naidoo says, “The bill remains fundamentally flawed because it does not deliver an equitable electoral system. It is not an electoral system that is going to enhance accountability, it is not an electoral system that is going to give a meaningful role for independent candidates to play in our politics going forward but that does not necessarily mean that the bill will be declared unconstitutional.”
IEC welcomes signing of Electoral Amendment Bill into law:
On the 17th of April 2023, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Bill into law. Now, just months ahead of 2024, the constitutionality of the act will be tested.
Despite the significant milestone, the first applicant, the Independent Candidates Association of South Africa, contends that the amendments do not level the playing field as an independent must get more votes than a political party to gain a seat in the National Assembly.
The organisation will argue on several grounds that this is inconsistent with the Constitution.
Director of the Independent Candidates Association of SA, Dr Michael Louis says, “When they do the seat allocation as we know there are 400 members of the national parliament, so what has happened is that when they do the seat allocations, what we call the quota in the past and currently , political parties to qualify only need 43 000 votes to get a seat in parliament.
“The Act is written so that for independent candidates to qualify they will have to get between 77 000 votes and 93 000 votes, nearly double that of political parties,” Dr Louis explains.
The second applicant, the One SA Movement, will make similar submissions that the Act places impermissible and arbitrary barriers to entry for independents by placing unreasonably high signature requirements on them.
The organisation will also argue that the Act will result in an unfair and unequal advantage for larger political parties and a disproportionate disadvantage for independents.
Meanwhile, the Rivonia Circle has been admitted as a friend of the court in the matter to assist the court in making a determination. Their submissions will centre on the signature requirement.
Rivonia Circle’s Lukhona Mnguni says, “The signature requirement on unrepresented political parties and independent candidates has potential to harm the constitutional democracy and our multiparty , it also introduces unequal and uneven treatment between, those parties already in the national assembly or in provincial legislatures.”
The matter is expected to proceed on Tuesday.