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Parliament Seeks Extension on Electoral Amendment Bill Deadline

April 28, 2022

Parliament

Parliament seeks a six-month extension of the deadline for amending the Electoral Act.

In a statement, parliament confirmed that papers were filed with the Constitutional Court on 26 April requesting the extension.

The Electoral Amendment Bill was tabled in parliament in January 2022.

The home affairs department published the bill’s explanatory summary in Government Gazette 45716 at the end of December 2021.

According to the explanatory summary, the aim of the proposed legislation is to give effect to the Constitutional Court decision in New Nation Movement NPC & others v President of the Republic of South Africa & others [2020] ZACC 11.

The decision declared the Electoral Act of 1998 unconstitutional to the extent that it “requires that adult citizens may only be elected to the National Assembly and Provincial Legislatures only through their membership of political parties”.

The bill aims to amend the Electoral Act, 1998, so as to:

• insert certain definitions consequential to the expansion of this Act to include independent candidates as contesters to elections in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures;
• provide that registered parties must submit a declaration confirming that all its candidates are registered to vote in the region or province where an election will take place;
• provide for the nomination of independent candidates to contest elections in the National Assembly or provincial legislatures;
• provide for the requirements and qualifications which must be met by persons who wish to be registered as independent candidates;
• provide the procedure to follow for a non-compliant nomination of an independent candidate;
• provide for the inspection of copies of lists of independent candidates and accompanying documents;
• provide for objections to independent candidates;
• provide for the inclusion of a list of independent candidates entitled to contest elections;
• provide that independent candidates are bound by the Electoral Code of Conduct;
• provide for the return of a deposit to independent candidates in certain circumstances;
• amend Schedule 1;
• substitute Schedule 1A; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

The portfolio committee on home affairs called for comment on the bill towards the end of January until 21 February 2022.

In February, the committee recommended that parliament seek an extension on the Constitutional Court order to remedy defective sections in the Electoral Act.

In a statement at the time, the committee pointed out that the main reason for the resolution to seek an extension was the need to undertake an “extensive and meaningful public participation process”.

According to the committee chairperson, Mosa Chabane, the committee holds the view that thorough work is needed to ensure that the amendments meet constitutional muster.

“This will give Parliament the space to engage the people and hopefully arrive at an Act that strengthens our Constitutional order”, he said.

In the latest statement, parliament points out that the bill was only tabled in parliament on 10 January 2022 “leaving parliament with only five months to process a Bill of such public significance and interest”.

“Accordingly, the Presiding Officers of Parliament approached the apex Court to seek an extension in order to enable Parliament to properly deliberate on the Bill before it and to ensure that citizens across the country are afforded an opportunity to meaningfully participate and share their views on the Electoral Amendment Bill.”