Politik, Konsular, Pressespiegel

12. März 2009

Judgement on expat vote on Thursday

The Constitutional Court will decide on Thursday whether South Africans living abroad have the right to vote. In February, Pretoria High Court Acting Judge Piet Ebersohn ruled that Section 33 of the Electoral Act and some of its regulation were unconstitutional. This, in response to an urgent application brought by Willem Richter, a South African teacher who is a registered voter, but lives and works in the United Kingdom.

The legislation allows voting by people on short trips and diplomatic personnel, but not other citizens living outside the country.

Richter contended that in so doing, certain categories of South African citizens absent from South Africa were unfairly denied the right to vote.

The court ordered Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to extend the right to special votes to all categories of registered voters absent from South Africa.

The IEC was ordered to accordingly amend the election regulations of 2004.

Richter has asked the Constitutional Court to confirm the order.

Mapisa-Nqakula has, meanwhile, applied to the Constitutional Court for permission to appeal against the Pretoria High Court ruling and opposes the Richter application and two more, similar applications.

Her argument is that the Act does not infringe the right to vote, and that even if parts of it do, the infringement is justified.

The A Party has applied to the court -- together with a South African living abroad, who is not a registered voter -- for an order declaring not only Section 33 of the Act unconstitutional, but also sections seven, eight, nine and 60.

They contend these sections violate the right to vote and the right to equal treatment of South African citizens living abroad.

An application has also been made by a group of South Africans living abroad, who were previously registered to vote, but are unsure whether they qualify to remain registered.

They are asking the court to declare parts of sections seven, eight and 33 unconstitutional and invalid.

They are also seeking an order suspending the invalidity of these sections for 18 months to allow Parliament to pass legislation correcting the unconstitutionality.

Until then, they ask that provisions are made to allow South African citizens living abroad to register for and vote in the 2009 elections.

The IEC does not oppose the applications, except where they will result in the registration of voters outside the country, their voting at places other than diplomatic missions and participation in provincial elections.

It also opposes any amendment to the 15-day period from the date of proclamation of the election, in which fans who intend supporting sports teams at international events overseas over the election must notify the IEC if they want to vote.

Mapisa-Nqakukla and the IEC contend that the legislation in question has been on the statute books since 2003, that the challenges could have been brought years ago, and that the challenges and the high court order could imperil the April 22 election.

The Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Freedom Front Plus and Afriforum have all applied to be admitted as friends of the court in the matter. -- Sapa

Source: www.mg.co.za/article/2009-03-11-judgement-on-expat-vote-thursday



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