ANC wants stricter qualifications for independent election candidates and new parties

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A voter casts her ballot at a polling station.
A voter casts her ballot at a polling station.
Luca Sola / AFP
  • The ANC wants to make it harder for independents and new parties to participate in national and provincial elections.
  • The party supports that minimal changes are made to the current PR system in the Electoral Amendment Bill.
  • The party pinned its colours to the mast as the public hearings on the bill got under way in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

The ANC wants to make it harder for independents and new parties to stand in national and provincial elections than is currently proposed by the Electoral Amendment Bill.

As the public participation process on the bill got under way this week, the ANC pinned its colours to the mast, with a very long statement explaining its position to the bill.

Under the guise of ensuring the "will of the people" by preventing long ballots, the ANC proposes stricter qualifications for independent candidates and new parties.

The bill was necessitated by the Constitutional Court's judgment on the New Nation Movement case in June 2020. The judgment found the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 unconstitutional, to the extent that it required adult citizens to be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures only through their membership of political parties.

While the ruling gave Parliament two years to amend the legislation, Parliament deferred to the executive to draft the legislation. The bill was only approved by Cabinet late last year.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi appointed a Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) chaired by former minister Valli Moosa. The MAC's majority recommendation envisaged a system that provided a mixed single-member constituency and proportional representation (PR) system.

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Motsoaledi and his department went with the minority advice and drafted a bill that relied solely on a PR system, amending it as little as possible.

This was in line with the ANC's policy position.  

"The ANC has always supported a Proportional Representation system as it is best suited to a country as diverse as ours in terms of race, class and language. It ensures that every political viewpoint shared by more than one quarter of one percent of the population is able to find representation in Parliament and speaks on behalf of that constituency," said the ANC's statement.

"We have never supported a first past the post constituency system as it is very difficult to reach the same level of diverse representation when only one, or maybe a handful of people are selected to represent a distinct geographical area. Each geographical area has its own levels of diversity and division.

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"The PR system has meant that even small parties that get as little as 0.25% of the vote remain in Parliament and have a voice in every legislature."

The party further said that the PR system boosted the representation of women, youth and other marginalised groups.

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 01: ANC members on
ANC supporters in Lamontville, Durban.

"We broadly support it as the best option for implementing the Constitutional Court order. We do, however, have some very serious concerns about the practicality of some of the proposals currently contained in the Bill."

Ballots

Among the ANC's concerns were that the system proposed by the bill could lead to very long, impractical ballots.

"Ultimately, if voters find it difficult to vote and find their preferred choice on a ballot, the election will not reflect the will of the people. We need to review the qualifications to stand as an independent candidate and as a new party. If we do not make it stricter, we can have thousands of candidates.

"We propose that new parties who are not yet represented in a legislature or Parliament, and independent candidates, should be able to demonstrate that they have voter support and have some chance of winning a seat. We suggest that the threshold should be at least one third of the quota needed for one seat in the previous election."

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While extolling the virtues of proportionality the PR system allowed, the ANC also didn't want too much of it.

"Potentially, we can have many small parties and independents occupying key seats that hold a balance of power in a legislature or Parliament where no party gets over 50%.

"This is happening at municipal level and often leads to unstable and temporary coalitions. This could be much worse at national and provincial government where government could be paralysed by small parties and independents who represent only tiny fractions of voters, but who can make stable governance impossible."

READ | SA's electoral system is ripe for radical change, OSA tells Parliament

The ANC proposed a two-stage process where all who met the full quota for one seat, were awarded a seat. The remaining seats should then be given to the parties with the highest average of votes per seat won.

"An independent can obviously only occupy one seat and their surplus votes will be discarded.

"Any party that has surplus votes should have these added to their total and divided by the number of seats already won by them. The party with the highest average will get a remainder seat. This is the only way proportionality can be maintained and we can prevent a situation like we have currently where many parties with less than 0.25% support still occupy seats."

Public hearings

Meanwhile, public hearings on the bill got underway in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, on Monday.

"All participants speaking at the Richards Bay public hearings underscored their support for the Bill, albeit with amendments to remedy some of its shortcomings. One such shortcoming is that the Bill does not state explicitly the allocation of seats for provincial legislatures. This element is stated explicitly for national Parliament.

"The bill currently proposes 400 seats for the National Assembly, with 200 seats elected from nine provinces or regions (200 regional seats) and the other 200 seats will be compensatory seats, which will be contested by political parties," said a statement from Parliament.

"There was also a concern that the bill might have unintended consequences, especially for the representation of women. The argument was made that South Africa's current patriarchal society might disadvantage women, who are often poorer than men, from raising the required election deposit.

"This will preclude them from contesting positions. The suggested remedy was for the bill to regulate specifically the allocations for women and men."

Other concerns were that the bill could be unfair in its current form. It might lead to a situation in which Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal occupy 50% of the regional seats based on population and number of votes received.

Another delegation of the committee was in Thulamela, Limpopo.

READ | ANC suspends Mervyn Dirks for 'unbecoming conduct' following his call to investigate Ramaphosa

"While expressing their support for the bill and its intention to allow citizens to contest national and provincial elections without political party membership, some residents questioned the implementation of the new system," said a statement from Parliament.

"Others warned that the proposed changes to the electoral system could result in very long ballot papers, and that multiple-page ballots could be problematic to both the Electoral Commission and the voters, and require more days for voting.

"Some residents told the committee that the bill was long overdue, and that Parliament and provincial legislatures should be constituted the same way as municipal councils, where independent candidates contest for elections without membership of a political party."

On Tuesday, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs' delegations were in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, and Lenyenye, Limpopo. 


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