Legal battle looms over IEC’s decision to re-open party registration, opposition parties argue that move favours ANC
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DURBAN - OPPOSITION parties have vowed to approach the courts following the Electoral Commission of SA’s (IEC’s) decision to re-open the window for political parties to register their candidates.
The DA and IFP have reacted with anger at the IEC’s decision, saying the move was meant to give the ruling party a lifeline to contest the elections.
However, the ANC, which stood to lose many municipalities because of its failure to meet the deadline for registering some of its candidates in different municipalities in August, has welcomed the IEC’s decision.
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini yesterday announced that September 18 and 19 would be used for voter registration, and that it was also “reasonably necessary” to amend the timetable and to reopen candidate registrations.
The announcements followed the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of an urgent application made by the IEC seeking to postpone the 2021 local government elections last month. The apex court ordered the IEC to hold local government elections on any day between October 27 and November 1 this year.
Mashinini said the commission had taken measures to ensure they complied with the Constitutional Court order and that a voter registration weekend was “a necessity” ahead of the elections.
“The scheme of the Municipal Electoral Act is such that the voter registration deadline is intended to precede the candidate nomination deadline. For example, persons can only be nominated as candidates once registered on the voters roll and provided they are registered in the relevant segment concerned. It is, therefore, necessary to allow political parties and independent candidates an opportunity to nominate candidates after the registration weekend of September 18 to 19 has occurred and after the voters roll has closed,” he said.
Reacting to the IEC’s announcement, the IFP said granting the chance for parties to register their candidates was merely meant to accommodate the ANC which had failed to meet last week’s deadline to register all its candidates for the elections.
“The briefing by the IEC announcing amendments to the electoral timeline – including the reopening of candidate nominations – clearly shows they are operating with political bias. The interpretation of the judgment by the IEC is not legal, but political. Therefore, the IFP is consulting with its legal team to consider the best possible legal avenues regarding the IEC’s amendments to the electoral timeline, spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said yesterday.
He noted that the IFP was not granted the same chance during the 2011 local government elections and the NFP was also unable to participate in the 2016 elections over glitches with the IEC. “The independence, credibility and integrity of the IEC is now in question. Indeed, it is a sad day for our democracy when we find that our Electoral Commission, a Chapter 9 institution, has been left sorely wanting,” said Hlengwa.
DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille also announced that the party had briefed its lawyers to explore all available legal avenues to oppose the decision which she said benefited the ANC.
She said the IEC had never provided leeway for other parties when they made such a request, citing the NFP’s total exclusion from the 2016 local election, and the IFP’s partial exclusion from certain wards in the 2011 election.
“What we saw today gives the ANC an advantage that other parties have never enjoyed. It is a transparent strategy to benefit the ANC, and would go some way to explaining why the ANC withdrew its appeal to the Electoral Court to have the candidate registration deadline lifted. Why would they have done that if they did not have a fallback position. Now their ‘plan B’ has been revealed,” Zille said.
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa said they welcomed the IEC decision. Addressing the National Executive Committee meeting yesterday, he said it was in line with the constitutional and legislative prescripts.
“Section 19 (3) of the Constitution provides that every adult citizen has the right to vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution and to do so in secret and to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office”, he said.
IEC commissioner Mosotho Moepya said the IEC rejected claims it was seeking to advance the position of one party. The commission had been “at pains” to explain their decision was not to benefit the ANC or any party.