Parliament receives more submissions on ‘fundamentally flawed’ Electoral Amendment Bill

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Members of Parliament (MPs) will deliberate on the latest submissions received regarding the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Earlier this month, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs called for additional public submissions on the revised Bill after having previously held provincial public hearings in March.

With the two-week window having closed last Friday, the committee has received a total of 256 submissions, Parliament’s Content Advisor Adam Salmon revealed during a meeting on Tuesday.

‘Constitutional impasse’

In the submissions, some organisations have argued that the Bill in its current form can be subject to a number of challenges in the courts because they were of the view that civil society and other interested parties’ proposed amendments “were simply ignored”.

“The manner in which the decision of the Constitutional Court [ConCourt] is interpreted by the drafters of the Amendment Bill is leading us into a Constitutional impasse – more especially that other organisations have embarked on exhaustive research and have recommended differently.

“We impress on the Portfolio Committee to realise that its inability to accede to the majority view will be challenged in the courts,” the 70s Group said in its submission.

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Civil society organisations previously argued that they made submissions to the ministerial advisory committee (MAC), which in its majority recommended a system that combined both a mixed single-member constituency and proportional representation (PR) system.

Parliament, however, chose the MAC’s minority proposal and drafted the Amendment Bill that relied solely on a PR system.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had appointed the MAC in February 2021, following a ConCourt ruling that declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional.

‘Fundamentally flawed’

More than 50 organisations – including Defend Our Democracy, My Vote Counts and Rivonia Circle, among others – believed that the Bill was “fundamentally flawed”.

The groups have called for a system which allows the electorate to directly elect representatives and to be able to directly hold them accountable for decisions they make and the oversight they conduct.

They also want those representatives in Parliament and provincial legislatures should be directly answerable to the people in their communities and constituencies.

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“The current Bill as it stands, and the system that it proposes, has not been tested anywhere in the world before.

“The Bill is complex and does not result. in general, in proportional representation. It goes against the underpinning of the democratic and constitutionally prescribed principle of equality where every person’s vote is of equal value,” the organisations said in their submission.

“The current Bill privileges political parties and further disadvantages independent candidates by making them compete on an unequal footing with political parties. This is manifestly unfair,” they further said.

‘Not without protest’

Meanwhile, the New Nation Movement (NNM), which took government to court in 2019, said the Bill was only focused on the inclusion of independent candidates, but “very little on the right of citizens to associate without being in, joining or forming a political party”.

“We, as litigants who led the Constitutional Court case, choose to respect and honour the instructions of the Portfolio Committee, not without protest though,” NNM said in its submission.

The committee has until 10 December 2022, to complete its work after was granted a six-month extension by the ConCourt in June.

It had also aims to send the Bill to President Cyril Ramaphosa for approval by the end of September.

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Source: citizen