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By Citizen Reporter


Electoral Amendment Bill remains a complex issue

Permitting contestation of multiple regions by independent candidates would result in a more complex electoral system.

Permitting contestation of multiple regions by independent candidates would result in a more complex electoral system.

This is according to the Department of Home Affairs, in relation to the constitutionality of independent candidates contesting only one region.

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Concerns have been raised about independent candidates who are required to contest elections in a single region, while the same requirement does not apply to political parties and candidates of political parties.

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, early this week, hosted a briefing with the state law advisers on the draft amendment agreed on the Electoral Amendment Bill.

ALSO READ: Electoral Amendment Bill: Independent candidates’ requirements still under debate

In a bid to clear some of the confusion, the department said the electoral system is complex and that could also lead to a delay in the finalization of an election.

“The committee debated and considered whether independents should be permitted to contest more than one region in an election. There are practical considerations which would arise if that approach were adopted.

“For example, the statute would have to provide for the situation where an independent candidate gains a seat in more than one region in the same elections,” said the department.

Various proposals have also been put forward and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has suggested that the candidate should obtain a seat in the region where they received the highest number of votes.

“Another consequence of this approach is that it could lead to the wastage of more votes as an independent candidate can only obtain a single seat and votes, for them, in other regions would have to be discarded,” the statement read.

But, is the current proposal which permits an independent candidate to contest only a single region constitutionally permissible?

“In our view, if the Act retained this approach, it would be constitutionally permissible and it does not appear to us that a system limited an independent candidate to contest one region only would violate the Constitution at all.”

Parliament has two options and according to the department, it (Parliament) could enact legislation which requires independent candidates to contest only one region for elections in the National Assembly or it could enact legislation which provides that independents may participate in more than one region.

“Both these options in our view are constitutionally permissible and, therefore, this a policy choice for Parliament to make.”

Meanwhile, the committee has already said it plans to send the Bill to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the end of September, with its deadline to amend the Electoral Act set for 10 December.

ALSO READ: MPs at ‘loggerheads’ over parts of Electoral Amendment Bill