SOUTH AFRICA’S top court’s dismissal of an application by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to postpone local elections due on October 27, has plunged the country into an election frenzy.
The IEC’s commissioners and top executives are meeting this weekend to align their plans with the judgment and finalise the election timetable. The institution has announced that it would convene an urgent meeting of all political parties to discuss the implications of the Constitutional Court judgment.
In a statement, the IEC said: “The Electoral Commission notes the order handed down by the Constitutional Court in which it dismissed an application by the Commission to defer the upcoming general Local Government Elections scheduled for 27 October 2021. The implications of the Constitutional Court judgment means that the Commission is now required to ensure that it prepares for an election to be held by 1 November 2021. The Commission will meet over the weekend to chart a way forward. In line with the orders of the Constitutional Court, the Commission will make announcements relating to the electoral programme on Monday. A meeting with the National Party Liaison Committee will also be convened on an urgent basis.”
The Constitutional Court judgment also means that political parties must start or ramp up their campaigns for elections which, unless something changes, must be held before November 1.
The judgment is a blow to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which supported a postponement and has struggled to register thousands of councillors expected to contest the municipal elections.
In 2016 the party was hammered in local government elections, losing key cities such as Johannesburg to rival opposition parties in the ANC’s worst faring since sweeping to power in South Africa’s first democratic vote in 1994.
This time the polls will test support for the ANC following the pandemic and South Africa’s worst civil unrest in years in July, triggered by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma after he failed to appear before an anti-corruption inquiry.
ANC spokesman Pule Mabe told broadcaster SABC that the party welcomed the judgment and would study properly before commenting further.
In August, the Electoral Commission applied to have the elections postponed after an inquiry recommended a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its ruling, the court set aside the government’s decision to hold the elections on October 27, saying instead the polls must go ahead between that date and November 1.
The commission must, within three days of the court order, determine if it was “practically possible” to hold a voter registration weekend ahead of people casting their ballot, it ordered.