Andrew's Electoral Systems Bill: briefing

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PRIVATE MEMBERS LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS AND SPECIAL PETITIONS
11 June 2003
ANDREW'S ELECTORAL SYSTEMS BILL: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr P Hendrickse (ANC)

Document handed out:
Andrew's Electoral Systems Bill

Relevant documents:
Democratic Alliance submission to the Slabbert Electoral Task Team
Report of Electoral Task Team [Part1] - 13 March 2003
Report of Electoral Task Team [Part 2]

SUMMARY
Mr Ken Andrew outlined the multi-member constituency electoral system as envisioned in the proposed Electoral Systems Bill and showed how it differs from the existing electoral system of proportional representation as well as the single-member constituency system. He made the point that this was a neutral rather than DA Bill as it was based overwhelmingly on system proposed by the Electoral Task Team Report.

The Committee will send the Bill to the relevant ministers for comment: Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

MINUTES
Briefing on Andrew's Electoral Systems Bill
Mr Ken Andrew explained that his proposed Bill would regulate the composition of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures as well as provide for transitional arrangements during the national election of the members of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. In terms of the Bill, the whole of the territory of the Republic of South Africa will be demarcated into contiguous constituencies and such constituencies will be pre-determined for every election of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures at least two years prior to the expiry of the term of office of a legislature. Hence the proposed electoral system differs from the current system as it divides the country into constituencies based on district councils. There would be between 3 and 7 members. There would be 300MPs (75%) coming from the constituency list and 100 MPs (25%) from the national list

He explained that there was a need to introduce an element of multi-jurisdictional constituency because in the current system there has been lack of accountability of Members of Parliament towards the electorates. Local party members would in practice have far more say about who appears on the constituency list. To maximise the vote within a constituency, parties would tend to choose people from the area for the constituency list.

Discussion
Mr Hendrickse (Chairperson) referred to Clause 35 of the Bill, which provides that a person would lose membership of the legislature if that person ceased to be a member of the party, which nominated him/her as the member of the legislature. He asked if the same principle would be applicable to members elected on a constituency basis.

Mr Andrew advised members that even at constituency level the Party would still have a list of its members and the voters would not vote for the individual. Hence the Clause 35 principle would still be applicable at constituency level.

Mr Ainslie (ANC) conceded that the beauty of the existing system was that it allowed for more inclusiveness of the marginalized groups and the proposed electoral system seemed to be weaker in that regard.

Mr Andrew on the contrary was of the view that the envisaged system would be more responsive to voters' needs and inclusive of the marginalized groups. For example he made mention of rural people and more specifically rural women who could, through this proposed system, have representatives in the National Assembly who have a direct and genuine mandate from that rural group.

Mr Abraham (ANC) asked if Mr Andrew had assessed the voting strength of the constituency-based system to make representation at the National level.

Mr Andrew replied that the number of voters per member would be the same and that the average population per constituency would approximately be around 6600 per constituency.

Mr Schmidt (DA) asked if the proposed Bill would be in conformity with the current Constitution. Should the proposed Bill be adopted would there be a need to amend the Constitution?

Mr Andrew pointed out that there would not be a need for the Constitution to be amended.

Mr Hendrickse (ANC) noted that the Bill will be sent to the relevant ministers for comment: Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. He then asked if changing the electoral system was the best way of making Members of Parliament accountable to the electorates because the members would still have to account to their respective parties anyway.

Mr Andrew stated that there was an interrelationship between accountability and responsiveness in the proposed electoral system. The proposed electoral system would not solve all the problems of accountability. However it could be a step towards creating mechanisms that will form characteristics of accountability.

The Chairperson thanked the presenter for his briefing on the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.

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