Newly signed Electoral Amendment Bill criticised

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Constitutional law expert Lawson Naidoo says the newly signed Electoral Amendment Bill is fundamentally and deeply flawed.

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the bill into law which will now allow independent candidates to contest provincial and national elections.

This comes after the Constitutional Court ruled that the Electoral Act was unconstitutional because it did not allow independent candidates from running in provincial and national elections.

Naidoo says signing the bill in its current form will only disadvantage the electorate, who he believes was not adequately involved in the public participation process.

“It creates an electoral system that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. It is a unique system that seems to have been developed specifically to accommodate the judgment of the Constitutional Court in the case in 2020 by permitting independent candidates to contest elections without making any changes to the current system that we have in place. I think the way that has been done is less than ideal. It doesn’t create what I refer to as a fit for purpose for an electoral system that we need here in SA.”

A number of organisations are against the latest Bill, saying it is unfair towards independent candidates.

Possible legal challenges

Civil society group, My Vote Counts, says the bill is bound to be legally challenged by various groups. Electoral Systems Researcher, Letlhogonolo Letshele, says this will likely put added strain on the IEC ahead of next year’s general election.

“Firstly, we are shocked that the president has signed this bill because it is regarded as unconstitutional. Civil society has raised issues regarding this bill. One of the flaws about this bill is that it is unfair, it creates unequal competition between independent candidates and political parties, so what we have (is) political parties contesting 400 seats and independent candidates only contesting half which is 200.”

Civil organisation, the Rivonia Circle, has also expressed its intention to legally challenge the Electoral Amendment Bill. The Director of the Rivonia Circle, Tessa Dooms, says the Bill is unfair towards independent candidates.

“The way it is set up at this point is unlike what happens at the local government level, where you have parties that are going to contest parties and a ward council contest, here you have a very complex system with political parties that are contesting for the same seats with individual candidates.”

The Independent Candidates Association (ICA) has revealed its intention to file a legal challenge to the Electoral Amendment Bill. It comes as the Independent Electoral Commission forges ahead with preparations for the 2024 polls after it designated the 18th and 19th of November for voter registration. The ICA’s Chairperson Michael Louis says, “We’ve got six areas that we are contesting or that we believe are unconstitutional. We are busy drafting papers. The system that has been devised is really not fair because it doesn’t make provision for the wasted votes and when it comes to the excess votes, they all get divided amongst the bigger political parties. So, we just want to make it easier and fair for individuals to stand.”

IEC welcomes the signing of the bill into law.

IEC welcomes the amended Electoral Act: Sy Mamabolo