Battle over expat vote continues

2013-09-17 14:40
Parliament (Picture: Sapa)

Parliament (Picture: Sapa)

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Cape Town - Political parties told the DA on Tuesday its pending court bid to secure South Africans living abroad a provincial vote in the 2014 elections was premature and probably doomed.

The African National Congress challenged the official opposition to seek first to resolve the heated debate on the issue in the home affairs portfolio committee, which is processing the electoral amendment bill.

Practical problems

ANC MP Andre Gaum said that so far, the Democratic Alliance had failed to make concrete proposals to deal with the practical problems which would arise if the bill were rewritten to allow provincial votes to be cast abroad.

He demanded to know how it would be determined in which province an expatriate should vote, in particular one who had never been registered on the post-apartheid voters' roll.

DA MP Masizole Mnqasela said under African custom it was evident that one hailed from the birthplace of one's elders, and that this should therefore determine for which provincial legislature South Africans abroad should cast their ballots.

Gaum responded: "That is a brave effort, but it is the Achille's heel of the Democratic Alliance's argument, and I don't think it will stand up in any court of law."

Cope's Graham McIntosh accused the DA of blackmail after Mnqasela suggested that if the issue were favourably resolved in the committee, the party might no longer have to resort to a legal challenge.

"That is outrageous. The DA is holding a pistol to the head of this committee," McIntosh said.

Constitutional Court ruling

The bill gives effect to the Constitutional Court ruling that South Africans living abroad have the right to vote in next year's election.

The ruling came in response to a Freedom Front Plus application filed on the eve of the 2009 elections.

The bill gives expatriates the right only to vote for the National Assembly.

The DA is adamant that this should be extended to the provincial ballot.

The opposition party runs the Western Cape. Gradually wresting power from the ANC on a local and provincial level to show that it can govern more efficiently is part of its stated political strategy.

The DA has justified its court application by saying the ANC rejected out of hand DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe's private member's bill to give expatriates a provincial vote.

The party is also at odds with the ANC on how citizens who live in the country, but will be outside the province where they are registered on voting day will be allowed to cast their ballots.

Special votes

The Independent Electoral Commission is planning to allow those who will be travelling to cast a special vote in the area where they are registered before the rest of the country goes to the polls.

The DA wants this to be changed to allow those people to vote at the polling station closest to where they are on election day.

The IEC has said this would pose huge logistical problems, because it would not be able to plan properly and might run out of provincial ballot papers.

Mnqasela said this was spurious because his party was still proposing that travelling voters alert the IEC beforehand of where they would want to vote.

"The IEC is making it melodramatic. We are simply suggesting we look at it level-headedly."

Read more on:    cope  |  da  |  anc  |  iec  |  masizole mnqasela  |  politics  |  elections 2014

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