Friday, June 10, 2016

Legalizing double voting; PERSEVERANCE

In what is being perceived as a total disregard for the views of the opposition and at least 50 percent of the population, the government has proposed amendments to the Elections Act that will allow residents of Perseverance to vote for two MNAs in a twelve-month period.

At present, when a new electoral area is approved by the National Assembly, receives the assent of the President and gazetted, the area automatically becomes a district upon the dissolution of the National Assembly.

During meetings between the Electoral Commission and representatives of political parties, objections were raised as the law says someone ought to have been a resident in an electoral area for at least three months at the time of elections to be allowed to vote.

To bypass this issue, the Elections (Amendment) bill 2016  published in the official gazette on 2 June states that where a new electoral area has gone through the process, the people living in that area will be able to vote in their previous district at an election.

The other problem raised during meetings between the EC and political parties involved young voters who have just turned 18 and living at Perseverance. The proposed law says they will be registered in their previous districts of residence even if they were kids before moving to Perseverance.

A third section makes provisions where Seychellois who have lived overseas and who are now residing at Perseverance, will have to register in the district where they originated. The most interesting part of the bill says that a referendum shall be held within a period of one year from the date of dissolution of the National Assembly.

To put it simply, if the National Assembly is dissolved next week,  residents of Perseverance will vote in their former districts and  within a year they will again vote at Perseverance for their own Member of the National Assembly (MNA).

“This is pure gerrymandering,” a senior official of the main opposition Linyon Demokratik Seselwa said adding that “given  that they will be voting for their own MNA within a year, residents of Perseverance should not vote in other districts.” The measures published in the official gazette may be unlawful and there is a strong possibility the amendments to the Elections Act may be challenged in court.

The decision taken by the government is pretty much in line with the stance taken by representatives of Parti Lepep during meetings with the Election Commission which suggested that citizens should be allowed to vote in the area where they last resided until such time that Perseverance residents are able to vote for their own MNAs. The opposition, on the other hand, had proposed an amendment to article 116 (5) of the Constitution to make a draft order come into effect upon its publication in the official gazette and not upon the dissolution of the National Assembly.