National, News

National Assembly Passes Elections Bill to 3rd reading

By Bida Elly David

South Sudan Revitalised Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA) on Monday passed the long-awaited national elections amendment bill 2023 to its third reading with a push for a democratic exercise.

Specialised committee on legislation and justice on Monday presented the comprehensive report on the National Election Act 2012 (Amended) Bill 2023 on the floor of parliament.

Presenting the report, the chairperson of the committee, Hon. James Mabor Gatkuoth said the Act was a critical building block in the creation of a conducive atmosphere for democratic elections.

After thorough scrutiny of the act, MPs raised questions on the status of displaced people, refugees, quotas for women and persons with disabilities (PWDs), and youth participation during the elections.

According to Mabor, the amendment bill failed to clarify a section or provision to ensure the participation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and PWDs in the elections.

He noted that Section 35 of the amended bill only recognizes South Sudanese in diaspora voting in constituencies where they have been displaced.

But Mabor said the committee recommended the reconstitution of an independent election commission that will run its functions without external interference.

In open comments after the committee’s report, lawmakers warned the cabinet against election malpractices, particularly rigging votes in a bid to forcefully win.

Mr. Paskal Bandindi, a lawmaker representing Tombura constituency in Western Equatoria State at the R-TNLA, said the national election act has failed to clarify laws pertaining to malpractices that may emerge.

“They said nothing particularly on the issue of malpractices in the elections; there is no way you can pass an election act without addressing the issue of malpractices. There must be a review in the third reading to address this issue,” he submitted.

Mr. Paskal recommended the need for the act to point out penalties against candidates who are accused of misconduct during the elections.

“This missing link is what captured my attention. We must have the penalties and framework for the legal body to control the elections before crooks contradict,” he said.

The MP stated that there are discontented candidates within the government box and outside with brown envelopes for polling staff.

Legislators further warned the cabinet against any extension of the roadmap, saying that elections must be a compulsory mission after enactment of the bill.

Meanwhile, Grace Abalang, MP representing Eastern Equatoria State, said there is a need for the women’s list to be taken care of in the coming elections.

“This time we need women’s representatives in counties so that they know who among their women to vote for,” she said. “We don’t want our people to vote for people they don’t know. The women’s list must be introduced in counties.”

Nathaniel Oyet, the first deputy speaker at the R-TNLA, said the political games played to derail the elections may not work after presidential approval of the enacted election bill.

“Election is the only way of exercising democratic rights. We say in our transitional constitution that we shall be democratic, so elections are a must because the question of elections is not in dispute at all,” said Oyet.

In June this year, South Sudan’s minister of justice tabled the National Elections Act 2012 (Amendment) Bill 2023 and three other bills before the parliament for scrutiny.

The Bill, which has been the expectation of all citizens to set the country free from conflict, also aims at paving the way for the conduct of general elections.








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