IRR joins call for MPs to reject Electoral Amendment Bill

Organisation says thanks to govt’s dithering, SA may not find itself on the brink of a constitutional crisis

IRR joins call for MPs to reject Electoral Amendment Bill

20 October 2022

The Electoral Amendment Bill is fundamentally flawed and it is an open question whether it will even pass constitutional muster, given the many problems with it, says the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

If MPs in the National Assembly today approve the bill and let it go on to the National Council of Provinces, they will simply be kicking the can down the road.

Thanks to government dithering, South Africa may now find itself on the brink of a constitutional crisis. Parliament was given a six-month extension until December to finalise a new electoral system (as directed by the Constitutional Court) which would allow independents, unaffiliated to political parties, to stand for the national legislature, or any of the nine provincial legislatures. While the bill arguably meets the letter of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, it does not meet the spirit. Independent candidates will simply not be competing on an equal footing with candidates from political parties.

Deficiencies include the higher burden for independent candidates to meet, such as the high number of signatures they need to provide to be allowed to stand, and that, depending on the number of votes cast for an independent, a significant number of votes could be wasted.

In addition, the new electoral bill could also result in a scenario in which a party wins less than 50% of the vote, yet still secures more than 50% of seats available in the legislature. This outcome is simply unacceptable.

As noted, the bill is unlikely to pass muster and the country could be sleepwalking into a constitutional crisis.

Said Marius Roodt, senior analyst at the IRR: ‘MPs now have a chance to prevent a flawed bill from going any further. It is inevitable that it will be challenged in court if it passes through the National Assembly and the NCOP, and any court challenge to the bill has a high probability of success.’

Roodt added that dillydallying by the government had now resulted in the current state of affairs.

‘The government had ample time to not only draw up an electoral system that would meet the requirements of both the Constitutional Court ruling as well as the Constitution itself. However, time was wasted and a deeply flawed bill was put forward. We are now paying the price,’ Roodt said.

A compromise of some sort would have to be reached for the 2024 election to go ahead without a hitch, he said.

‘We will have to run the 2024 election under the old system with the proviso that a new satisfactory electoral system be put in place for the following election. This is not an ideal situation but some sort of solution must be found,’ Roodt concluded.

Issued by Marius Roodt, Senior analyst at the IRR, 20 October 2022