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Johannesburg - The DA’s dream of increasing its provincial votes through voters in the diaspora was rejected by MPS this week.
The National Assembly this week adopted the portfolio committee on home affairs’ report which rejected as “not desirable” the private member’s bill by DA MP James Selfe. The bill seeks to, among other things, change legislation to allow South Africans based abroad to vote in the provincial ballot.
Voters based abroad at the time of elections are currently allowed to vote in the general elections, but they can only vote in the national ballot.
Even South Africans who are locally based forfeit their provincial vote in the general elections if they are not in the province where they reside on election day.
The committee already described the DA’s proposal as “not desirable” in July this year, but remarks by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials when they appeared before the parliamentary committee this week indicated the proposal might create a logistical nightmare for the commission and risk the credibility of the voters’ roll.
This, according to IEC deputy chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo, was because an address provided by a registered voter connected them to a ward or municipality.
“It would not be in the interest of the credibility of the voters roll to use the last address that they had in the country, because it contradicted the principle of registering and voting in the district where one lives,” said Mamabolo.
The practicality of administering the implementation of the proposal seems also to have put MPs off. The proposal would create a logistical nightmare for the IEC as it would mean even South Africans based in the country would have to be given the same privilege. The IEC would have to deliver 10 different ballots to every one of its 20 000 voting stations across the country, the national ballot and nine provincial ballots, as anybody could come to a voting station from any of the nine provinces in the country seeking to cast the provincial vote.
Political analyst Professor Steven Friedman described the proposal for the provincial vote as odd. “I find that proposal very odd. Why should somebody living in another country have a say in who leads a province where they don’t even live? In terms of the national ballot it is fair to afford them a vote, but the provincial vote proposal does not make sense,” he said.
According to Friedman, there was a view that the DA made the proposal because they believed many people who had left the country did not support the ANC and its policies and would support the DA.
But Selfe said the portfolio committee had not rejected the DA bill on electoral reform, and that the party would introduce it in the new Parliament after the 2014 elections.
“The committee legitimately raised concerns on the practicalities of dealing with the bill before the 2014 elections and so the bill will be resubmitted in the new Parliament,” he said.
The right of South Africans to vote while they are abroad was brought into effect by the Constitutional Court in 2009 when it ruled in favour of the FF Plus, which made the application on behalf of Willem Richter, a Pretoria teacher working overseas. This was, however, limited to those who had already been registered at the time of the elections.
This provision has now been included in the cabinet-approved Electoral Amendment Bill, which has gone further to include provisions for expats to even register abroad.