On Friday May 27 a large cohort of civil society organisations held a roundtable discussion to decide on a collective approach to the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before Parliament.
The gathering took place just two weeks ahead of the June 11 deadline set by the Constitutional Court for Parliament to change the country’s electoral laws to be in line with the Constitution. Following the New Nation Movement judgment of June 2020, Parliament was ordered to change our electoral laws to allow for South Africans – who are not members of any political party – to run for public office and serve their country.
OSA, OUTA, CASAC, Democracy Works, the Independent Candidate Association, the Inclusive Society Institute, the FW De Klerk Foundation, Africa School of Governance, Raising Righteous Rulers, Citizens Parliament, the Helen Suzman Foundation and My Vote Counts agreed that Parliament has not met its obligations as set out by the Constitutional Court and that the proposed bill in its current form is unconstitutional.
They also agreed that Parliament is required to undertake a full overhaul of the electoral system and not the “light touch approach” to amending the Electoral Act that it has adopted.
They also agreed that the 2024 elections must be conducted under a new electoral system – and that there can be no delay, postponement of elections or an election conducted under unconstitutional legislation.
All of the organisations expressed concern about the lack of meaningful public participation that Parliament created in its hurried process to produce the bill. Some of the organisations are exploring their legal options regarding the processing of the current bill.
The parties agreed on the following negotiables and non-negotiables:
- Constituency-based system within an overall proportional system (Regions can be redefined easily without new demarcation process, or use existing municipal districts)
- There should be a mechanism to enable independent candidates to participate in the compensatory votes – i.e. all 400 seats in the National Assembly
- Vacancy of seats must be resolved
- Barriers to entry need to be fair, reasonable, and equitable (particularly the financial requirements)
- Votes threshold for constituency and PR seats must be reasonable and equitable (irrespective of the split of constituency vs PR seats)
- How seats are to be divided nationally and regionally in the National Assembly
- Single ballot vs two ballots
- Open vs closed party list system
In a media statement issued by the organisations that met last Friday, the civil society organisations say they are concerned to ensure a constitutionally compliant electoral process that upholds the sanctity of the ballot box and honours the dignity, worth and equality of each voter.
“To this end we will collectively work, looking to galvanise all South Africans towards electoral change that will leave a legacy for generations to come,” they say.
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