Don’t reduce MPs to voting cattle – EFF

2015-01-28 17:54

The Economic Freedom Fighters has proposed introducing a secret ballot for key issues in Parliament to ensure that MPs are not reduced to “voting cattle”.

Challenging Parliament to alter the rule book, EFF chief Whip Floyd Shivambu said it was important for democracy that public representatives could make independent decisions and not always feel compelled to toe the party line.

He submitted his party’s proposal to a sub-committee of the parliamentary rules committee today, though it was immediately shot down by the ANC and got a lukewarm reaction from other opposition parties.

The EFF proposed that the rules of the National Assembly be amended to provide for the use of the secret ballot for the election of the President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker; motions of no confidence; and resolutions, reports and Bills tabled for approval.

“The mechanism we propose is not an everyday secret ballot, but a hybrid system, with some open votes and others secret,” said Shivambu, adding that a vote should be held in secret if it had the support of 15% of MPs.

In its written proposal, the EFF says the right to a secret ballot was “sacrosanct” in all democracies and enshrined in the SA constitution for elections, yet this was not extended to the parliamentary process.

The rigorous debates in Parliament became meaningless after being put to an open vote “because even those who were persuaded by an argument from different political parties are still subjected to the political party line”.

The IFP’s Narend Singh said any change needed to proceed with caution as constitutional issues were at stake, and that electoral reforms needed to be looked at. Congress of the People’s Deidre Carter agreed, while acknowledging that MPs often felt intimidated through the open vote system.

The ANC’s deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude pointed out that MPs were elected not as individuals but as party representatives, so it was incumbent on them to vote on party lines.

South Africa did not have a constituency based system, said ANC MP Juli Killian, but an indirectly elected system where MPs were mandated directly via the party, not voters.

The proposal will be circulated to members of the rules committee, which sits next week.

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