OpEd, Politics

Parliament’s Troubling Decision: Undermining Democracy and Fueling Discord

By Gama Hassan Oscas

In a startling move, the South Sudan Parliament passed the National Elections Act 2012, Amendment Bill 2023, which has raised serious concerns about the future of democracy in the country. This bill grants the elected president the unprecedented power to appoint 5 percent of legislators, undermining the very essence of a democratic electoral process. This development comes after some lawmakers walked out of the August House in protest of certain provisions, they believed would empower the head of state to continue appointing Members of Parliament (MPs). This opinion piece examines the implications of this bill, questions the legitimacy of such a provision in a democratic society, and underscores the dangerous consequences it could have on the stability and future of South Sudan.

The National Elections Act 2012, Amendment Bill 2023, is a legislative proposal that has sent shockwaves through the nation. At its core, it grants the elected president the authority to handpick 5 percent of legislators, a move that undermines the very essence of democratic elections. This bill raises several critical issues that demand our scrutiny.

Presidential Appointment of Legislators: The most contentious provision in this bill is the one that allows the president-elect to nominate a certain number of members into the assembly after the elections. This provision is not only undemocratic but also antithetical to the principles of free and fair elections. In a democracy, the people’s voice should be paramount, and elected representatives should reflect the will of the electorate. Allowing the president to appoint legislators’ post-election is akin to turning elections into a mere formality.

Undermining the Electoral Process: The idea of an elected president appointing legislators is a slap in the face of democracy itself. It fundamentally undermines the electoral process and the people’s right to choose their representatives. What purpose do elections serve if the president can simply handpick members of the parliament? This provision makes a mockery of the democratic principles that South Sudan should uphold.

Fueling Rebellions: South Sudan has had a tumultuous history marked by internal conflicts and rebellions. The passage of such a bill further fans the flames of discord and rebellion. It is ironic that the very individuals who pass such laws could become targets of opposition and rebellion in the future. The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan in 2011 was marred by similar issues, and it is a painful reminder of how bad laws can lead to violence and suffering.

This move only reinforces the perception that the South Sudanese parliament is nothing more than a rubber stamp for those in power. It fails to represent the will of the people and instead enacts laws that cater to the interests of the president who appointed its members. This lack of independence and commitment to democratic values is a disservice to the nation.

Disregard for the Future: The South Sudanese parliament should be the vanguard of the nation’s future, ensuring that laws are enacted to meet regional and international standards and promote democratic principles. However, this bill demonstrates a complete disregard for the future of the country, as it prioritizes individual leaders over the well-being and aspirations of the South Sudanese people.

The passage of the National Elections Act 2012, Amendment Bill 2023, has far-reaching implications for South Sudan. It is essential to highlight some of the consequences this decision may bring:

Erosion of Democracy: At its core, democracy relies on the principle of representation through free and fair elections. Allowing the president to appoint legislators undermines this principle, eroding the very foundation of democracy in South Sudan.

Increased Instability: South Sudan has already been plagued by instability and internal conflicts. The passage of this bill adds fuel to the fire, potentially triggering more rebellions and unrest as disillusioned citizens may resort to violence to voice their grievances.

Diminished International Reputation: South Sudan’s international standing as a fledgling democracy will suffer as a result of this decision. The international community is likely to view the nation with increased skepticism, which could have diplomatic and economic repercussions.

Potential for Abuse of Power: Granting the president the power to appoint legislators creates an environment ripe for the abuse of power. It sets a dangerous precedent where future leaders may be tempted to exploit this provision for their political gain.

Weakening of Legislative Oversight: With a parliament that seems subservient to the executive, the ability to hold the government accountable for its actions is compromised. This further erodes the system of checks and balances that should be a cornerstone of any democracy.
The Role of the Parliament

A parliament’s primary function is to represent the interests of the people, enact legislation that reflects the will of the electorate, and serve as a check on the executive branch of government. Unfortunately, the South Sudanese parliament, as demonstrated by the passage of this bill, appears to have forgotten these fundamental principles.

Instead of safeguarding democracy and working towards the betterment of the nation, the parliament has allowed itself to become a tool of the executive branch. This raises serious questions about the institution’s integrity, independence, and its commitment to the welfare of the South Sudanese people.

The Path Forward

South Sudan stands at a crossroads, and the decisions made today will shape its future. To rectify the damage caused by the National Election Act 2012, Amendment Bill 2023, and to rebuild trust in the democratic process, several steps must be taken:

Reconsider and Revise: The parliament should reconsider and revise the bill to eliminate the provision that allows the president to appoint legislators. This step is crucial to restoring faith in the electoral process.

Strengthen Checks and Balances: The parliament must assert its independence and strengthen its role as a check on the executive branch. This includes rigorous oversight of the government and a commitment to transparency.

Engage the Public: It is essential for the parliament to engage with the South Sudanese people to understand their concerns and aspirations better. This can be achieved through open dialogues, town hall meetings, and other forms of public participation.

Uphold Democratic Principles: Laws enacted by the parliament should adhere to democratic principles and international standards. The parliament has a duty to ensure that legislation serves the best interests of the nation and its citizens, rather than individual leaders.

International Engagement: South Sudan should seek assistance and guidance from the international community in its journey towards strengthening democracy and good governance. International organizations and neighboring countries can provide valuable support and expertise.

In conclusion, the passage of the National Elections Act 2012, Amendment Bill 2023 by the South Sudan Parliament is a grave misstep that threatens the very essence of democracy in the nation. Allowing the president to appoint legislators post-election is a direct affront to democratic principles, eroding trust in the electoral process and exacerbating the country’s instability.

It is imperative that South Sudan’s parliament reevaluates its decisions and prioritizes the interests of the South Sudanese people above all else. Democracy, transparency, and accountability should be the guiding principles in the legislative process, and laws should be enacted to promote the nation’s growth and stability.

The path forward requires a commitment to democratic values, the elimination of provisions that undermine the electoral process, and a sincere dedication to representing the will of the people. The future of South Sudan hinges on the choices made today, and it is in the hands of its leaders to steer the nation towards a brighter and more democratic future.

The author of this opinion piece is an advocate and can be reached by email at: oscarsgama@gmail.com


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