Electoral Amendment Bill: ConCourt hands Parliament 'lifeline'

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  • The Constitutional Court granted Parliament a six-month extension to amend the Electoral Act.
  • Parliament requested the extension after it could not process the bill on time, which was tabled by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in January.
  • OSA said the extension was a "lifeline" to Parliament after it "dragged its feet for two years".  

The Constitutional Court has granted Parliament a six-month extension of the deadline it gave it to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to stand in national and provincial elections.

The apex court handed down judgment on Friday. Its reasons will follow at a later date.

The deadline was due to expire on 10 June. It's been extended to 10 December.

In June 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that "the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 is unconstitutional to the extent that it requires that adult citizens may be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures only through their membership of political parties".

Parliament deferred drafting an amendment bill to the Department of Home Affairs, and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi only tabled the Electoral Amendment Bill in Parliament in January.

As it became clear that the legislative process would not be completed on time, Parliament applied for an extension of six months.

After the Constitutional Court's June 2020 ruling, Parliament deferred its constitutionally mandated duty of drafting the legislation to the executive - as is most often the case.

READ | Electoral Amendment Bill: No reason to panic, says Mapisa-Nqakula

Motsoaledi appointed a Ministerial Advisory Council (MAC) but went against the MAC's majority recommendation, and a bill making minimal changes without a constituency system was drafted.

This bill, in its current form, may favour bigger parties when the seats are calculated, and it has the support of the majority party, the ANC.

Civil society, however, does not approve.

Responding to Friday's ruling, the One South Africa Movement (OSA) said Parliament had been given a "lifeline" after "dragging its feet for two years".

"We await the full judgment, with full reasoning and rationale, which is set to be released at a later date," said OSA spokesperson Mudzuli Rakhivhane in her statement.

"It comes as little surprise that Parliament missed this deadline and then begged for an extension. For two years, Parliament has employed Stalingrad tactics to dither, delay and defer - all in a bid to avoid the inevitable: a stronger, more accountable new electoral system that gives power back to people and communities and ensures the best, most deserving people represent us in Parliament," she said.

"We want to urge Parliament to abandon its short-sighted and self-serving approach. The path to a new electoral system started long before the Constitutional Court judgment of 2020 and Parliament's tactics cannot stop the inevitable change to our system."

She called on Parliament to use this six-month grace period diligently and to focus on the task at hand.

OSA will gather at the Constitutional Court to make its "voices heard in demanding this change happens without any further delay" and to announce its next steps "to bring about a stronger, more accountable new electoral system".

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, which is currently dealing with the Electoral Amendment Bill, has previously defended its process. The committee has also decided to work through the coming recess, which will start next week and last until 15 August.

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