National Assembly takes on revised Election Act, approves new Civil Code |05 August 2020
With its dissolution imminent, the National Assembly yesterday kicked into high gear by prematurely considering the Elections Amendment Bill (2020), and approved the Civil Code of Seychelles Bill (2018).
Leader of government business, Charles De Commarmond, moved a motion to disregard the seven-day requirement between readings of bill and allow the Election Amendment (2020) Bill to be debated and considered by the National Assembly.
The Bill was presented by Vice-President Vincent Meriton who was accompanied by Attorney General Frank Ally, chairperson of the Electoral Commission Danny Lucas and its senior legal officer Salina Sinon.
In 2017, the Electoral Commission undertook an exercise to examine and revise the electoral legal framework.
The aim of this exercise was to adopt democratic principles, provide effective representation and create the necessary conditions for fair and just elections.
This involved the participation of political parties and representatives from the civil society and, by December 2017, the Electoral Commission had presented its recommendations for electoral reform.
The reforms were subsequently evaluated by the government and few modifications were made to the Elections Act as well as laws relating to the electoral process. Before finalising the Elections Act, the Electoral Commission went back for further consultation with political parties.
The bill seeks to bring the following propositions:
- Defining and clarifying certain key words or terms such as ‘rejected ballot paper’, ‘spoilt ballot paper’, ‘total votes cast’, ‘valid votes cast’ and ‘votes cast in favour of a candidate’.
- Anticipates the nominations of election officials.
- The persons appointed under the Elections Act should be persons of integrity and should not demonstrate any partisan affiliation with a political party or candidate.
- Demands that the chief registration officer each year prepares a list of persons in electoral zones who will turn 100 years old before December 31 of that year, verify the residence of each of those persons and revise the voters’ register accordingly.
- Allow the Electoral Commission to divide the registers of electoral zones, with each section certified, in order to facilitate voting in alphabetical order.
- Reduce the number of supporters that a candidate needs to support his/her nomination to 50 for a presidential candidate and 10 for a legislative candidate.
- Clarifies that when a candidate uses someone’s name without their consent to support his/her candidacy, this nomination should be rejected. This would also be considered as an offence.
- Provides resources for a special queue and separate voting facilities at voting stations for vulnerable persons and persons who need assistance to vote, in order to minimise the amount of time it takes to exercise their right to vote.
- Each ballot paper should be perforated to facilitate its removal from the stubs, with each stub holding a serial number.
- Persons who want to vote should physically come to a voting station.
- Define the term of ‘incapacitated voter’ and establish procedures for assistance and determine the qualification of the person that will assist them in voting.
- Supplementary measures in regards to procedures to close a voting station.
- Chief electoral officer should explain the security characteristics attached to ballot papers to election officials and, in turn, election officials should explain these to the candidates and their representatives before votes are counted.
- Makes provisions for financial support that a candidate receives and limits their expenditures.
Following the VP’s statement, the MNAs started debating on the merits and principles of the Elections Act Amendment Bill (2020). The debates expect to continue during today’s sessions.
Meanwhile the National Assembly approved the Civil Code of Seychelles Bill (2018), with 29 votes in favour after certain final amendments were discussed.
The new Civil Code replaces the Civil Code of Seychelles 1975, although only around 10% of the Code has been revised while 90% remains more or less the same.
The process to revise and draft the hefty Civil Code was a lengthy process going back to 2013, which involved various meetings by the Civil Code Committee. Its redaction was sped up as from 2018.
Key persons that assisted in this endeavour were Professor Tony Angelo from the University of Wellington in New Zealand, his associate Sarah Mead, and two Mauritian legal representatives, Sabir Kadel, a senior law reform officer and Rosario Domingue, the chief executive of the Mauritius Law Reform Commission and local attorney Bernard Georges.