Election Watch

Are municipal elections heading for a mighty mess?

IEC.jpg

Signs are mounting that the August municipal election process is in danger of becoming an almighty messy affair, dumping the country into destabilising volatility.

While the heat and momentum of election campaigning is picking up day by day, it is not even certain that the election could legally be held on 3 August.

In the meantime, incidents of violence and intimidation, including five murders to date, are becoming more frequent and there are threats of “armed struggle”, together with what might already be a low-intensity civil war.

Legality

At the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) traditional draw for the top spot on the ballot paper last week one of the newest of the 206 political parties registered for the elections challenged the legality of the process.

The deputy president of the Shosholoza Progressive Party and a former senior employee of the IEC, Raynauld Russon, demanded that the election process be stopped because it is “illegal”.

The party also said it will this week approach the High Court in Pretoria in an attempt to stop this year’s elections. The basis of their application is that judgement by the Constitutional Court on (CC) the question of voters’ addresses on the voters roll is still outstanding.

The IEC already approached the CC in February with an urgent application to overturn an Electoral Court order calling for the registration of voter addresses to be set aside. At this stage it is not known when the ruling can be expected.

Fact is, as things stand regarding verifiable voters addresses on the roll, should the election go ahead, it will violate the Electoral Act. If the election does not take place it will be a violation of the Constitution.

Unless this issue is soon resolved, this legal shadow over the process will remain, and if the election does go ahead regardless, a string of court cases challenging the results might follow.

Just about the only escape available might be for the parties, presently represented in parliament, to agree to urgently amend either the Electoral Act or the Constitution. But there are no indications that such a move is afoot, while time is fast running out to mount it in time for 3 August.

Violence

The other major threat of widespread violence and intimidation is increasingly making it into media headlines.

And this time round the governing ANC alliance cannot blame the media for sensationalising the issue. Even the IEC has found it necessary to warn

about the threat of political unrest to the election process.

Although not restricted to KwaZulu-Natal province, it seems that that province in particular, with its bitter internal ANC factional battle has become besieged with political violence, including murders.

But the following headlines also tell a wider story:

Indeed, the ANC seems to be the most common denominator in allegations of political violence and intimidation as its governing alliance is fast fracturing.

It is clear that a volatile election period is set to dominate the South African socio-political environment in the weeks to come. Its lasting effects might also be with us long after 3 August and could destabilise the country for quite some time.

 

by Piet Coetzer

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