New laws risk delaying election date in South Africa

 ·13 Mar 2024

South Africa’s National Assembly passed amendments to the nation’s electoral laws, including changes to how government funding for political parties is allocated, a move that could trigger court challenges and the delay of the 29 May voting date — although a legal expert considers that unlikely.

The Electoral Matters Amendment Bill was initially aimed at providing state support to independent candidates who can contest provincial and national votes for the first time but also envisages changes to the formula used to disperse money to parties.

An increased share will go to the biggest ones, meaning the ruling African National Congress will be the main beneficiary while smaller rivals will lose out.

The bill will now be referred to the National Council of Provinces for approval and then referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign into law.

“We will wait for the NCOP to adopt it, then we will approach the president not to sign it,” Corne Mulder, the chief whip for the opposition Freedom Front Plus, said by text message.

“If he does, then we will go to court.” The Inkatha Freedom Party, the country’s fourth-largest, expects the vote to be postponed should there be a legal challenge.

“We don’t want a delay to the elections, but it looks like we will have no choice,” said Liezl van der Merwe, the IFP’s chief whip.

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, sees a low risk of the vote not proceeding as planned.

“The courts are loath to issue an interdict to postpone elections,” he said. Secondly, I don’t think the issue of funding is critical to this election.”

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