The Citizen (Gauteng)

New electoral Bill ‘unfair’, may be taken to the ConCourt

- Brian Sokutu

Slated by political experts and organs of civil society for being badly crafted, giving unfair advantages to political parties and making it difficult for independen­t candidates to contest next year’s national polls on an equal basis, the Electoral Amendment Bill is set to be challenged in court should it be passed into law in its current form.

Independen­t political analyst Sandile Swana and Daryl Swanepoel, chief executive of Inclusive Society Institute, have described the proposed law as “not making it easy for independen­t candidates wishing to contest the elections”.

Swana said the manner in which the Electoral Amendment Bill has been crafted – supported by the majority in parliament, especially the ANC – “still favours parties and party bosses, rather than the independen­ts”.

“Due to independen­t candidates lacking resources, the Bill, in its current form, will make it more expensive for an independen­t candidate to register to contest an election, creating barrier,” said Swana.

Swanepoel, whose organisati­on is part of the civil society movement planning to take the legislatio­n to the country’s apex court, said the Bill failed the constituti­onal muster.

Among its many flaws, Swanepoel said the Bill:

Initially required independen­t candidates to produce proof of 22 000 votes and supporting signatures, while political parties needed 1 000; and

Required independen­t candidates to contest national elections in all nine provinces, but would not allow them to total up all votes that would include areas where the threshold was not met. Political parties could total up all votes in the nine provinces to meet the required number.

Swanepoel said: “As civil society, what we are saying is that independen­ts must be treated equally to political parties.

“As it is currently crafted, this Bill is not going to pass constituti­onal muster and it is going to be challenged by civil society in the Constituti­onal Court.

“There are a number of civil society organisati­ons currently briefing senior counsel in preparatio­n to lodge papers.

“A newly formed party only needs 1 000 signatures, which makes the situation clearly not fair. But that has now shifted, with parliament now having come down to 15%.

“Independen­ts are allowed to stand in all provinces for the national elections, but in all nine provinces, independen­ts cannot add all the votes together.

“If you do not get sufficient votes in a particular province, you are out, even though all your votes might add up to a sufficient number as a quota.

“If you are a small newly registered political party, you are allowed to add all the votes together, but an independen­t cannot add votes together.

“This goes against the principle of equality.

“We have also found it unfair to expect independen­t candidates to garner 17 000 votes in the short space of time, due to having to wait for a required template from the IEC, which might take months to produce.

“To get 17 000 votes, means that not every person you see is going to sign. It means you need to see 170 000 people to get 17 000.

“If you spend five minutes per person, that comes to 850 000 minutes that you are going to need to collect 17 000 signatures – 14 166 hours, which cannot be done in less than six months.”

He said parliament agreed to an electoral reform, ushering in a constituen­cy-based model. But this would be difficult in the absence of a demarcatio­n board.

“We have proposed a two-step approach – keeping the situation the way it is, with a binding undertakin­g that broader electoral reform will take place in 2029.”

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