Struggling parties thrown a lifeline

2013-04-28 06:00

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has given 66 political parties that faced deregistration this week a month’s reprieve to save their ailing organisations.

Chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said the decision was taken “in the spirit of multiparty democracy” during a meeting of the commission on Friday.

The deregistration could have seen a decrease in the number of active political parties from 216 to 150 parties registered to contest local, provincial and national elections.

Smaller political parties welcomed the decision to cull parties not represented in any government, but called for an equal political playing field in the manner the commission only funds parties that have actually won seats in local, provincial and national spheres of government.

They cited a lack of political funding as the main reason they have had to close shop or transform their parties into nongovernmental organisations.

Of the 74 parties that were meant to be scrapped, the commission said only eight had notified the electoral body of their intention to continue slugging it out as political formations and remaining on the parties’ roll by the Thursday deadline this week.

Of the 152 parties that are not represented at any government level, 78 had renewed their registration, while 74 had not.

“The 74 have been informed of their pending deregistration and of this 74 to be deregistered, eight parties have so far notified the IEC of their continued existence,” said Moepya.

Parties are required to notify the commission once a year of their intention to continue operating.

Founder of the Dabalorivhuwa Patriotic Front Tshifhiwa Makhale, the oldest of the parties on the list to be deregistered which was established in 1998, said he was considering the option of joining a coalition for next year’s polls as campaign funds had run dry.

“Smaller parties have come to realise that it is not possible to beat the ANC in the elections if they go it alone. We need to emulate Kenya, whose small parties entered into a coalition. We are looking forward to the consultations with other parties,” said Makhale, whose party has survived.

Makhale said without funding it was difficult to reach communities and buy posters for campaigns.

For a party to contest the 2009 election it had to submit a list of 500 signed-up members, candidates and pay an election deposit of R180 000 for national elections and R40 000 for elections for each provincial legislature.

Some, like the South African Business Party – founded in 2006 – have ceased to operate, rather opting to transform and last year began operating as an NGO known as the SA People’s Organisation.

Judith Schippers of the African Alliance, established in 2011, said they would not register any more but did not give reasons.

Jeremy Acton, the founder of the Dagga Party in 2011, said they will let the party’s registration lapse and register again next year to contest elections at a national level.

Acton’s party, which mainly advocates for the decriminalisation of dagga, was only registered locally in Langeberg in Western Cape.

“The main issue is lack of money for campaigns. But we will let the registration lapse and we intend to register as a national party in the next three months,” said Acton.

Another challenge was that supporters of the Dagga Party were reluctant to hold meetings because marijuana is an illegal substance in SA.

John Best, deputy leader of the Liberal People’s Party founded in 2008, said they have notified the commission that they will be changing the party’s name and logo and will be registered for next year’s polls.

“Many people don’t want to vote DA or ANC but it is difficult to reach them if you don’t have a cent,” said Best.

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