Political intolerance IEC’s biggest headache

2013-11-12 13:50

Despite only half the number of expected new voters turning out to register this past weekend, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says the biggest headache it has ahead of next year’s general election is political intolerance.

Just more than a million new voters registered for the election, with those aged between 18 and 19 years registering the lowest turnout over the two days of voter registration.

IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula announced that of the 2.5 million people who had turned out to register and reregister, 1 088 015 were new voters.

The voter registration weekend pushed the percentage of eligible and registered voters from 73.6% to 77%, said Tlakula.

The commission had targeted two million new voters which would have boosted overall registration levels of eligible voters to 80%.

Tlakula said the results of the voter registration drive showed that there was an “ongoing challenge” to all South Africans to urge the youth to register to vote.

“While the number of registered voters aged 18-19 almost tripled from 167 535 prior to the weekend to 434 370, the registration percentage of 22.6% remains the lowest for all age groups and presents an ongoing challenge for all South Africans to encourage a new generation of voters to participate as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of democracy,” said Tlakula.

Of the 2.5 million people who visited the 22 000 voting stations, 1.17 million changed their voting stations to reregister in new locations.

Tlakula said those who did not get the opportunity to register this weekend should visit their nearest municipal offices where they could register to vote until the voters’ roll was closed closer to the election.

KwaZulu-Natal had the highest turnout with 620 864, followed by Gauteng (572 395), Eastern Cape (339 614), Western Cape (295 497), Mpumalanga (197 551), Limpopo (178 800), Free State (140 304), North West (116 438) and Northern Cape (50 756).

While the commission expressed concern about the lower-than-expected turnout, it said there was more concerned about political instability ahead of the polls.

“The single (biggest) headache if you ask me is political intolerance. The appeal that we want to make to political parties, as their supporters campaign, is to ensure they will allow free political activity and allow people to campaign without intimidation. They should campaign and do so robustly but within the confines of the law and adhere to the electoral code of conduct,” said Tlakula.

Commissioner Raenette Taljaard agreed, saying: “Certainly our biggest headache as the five commissioners are issues of political tolerance where we are celebrating 20 years of democracy ...

“As a commission, we will grapple with it but we are hoping that the levels of political tolerance will be a tribute to our country and that in their campaigning political parties will adhere to the electoral code. It’s certainly a burning headache for us.”

Tlakula said they would meet with the country’s security agencies to take stock of security issues that came up in the volatile area of Bekkersdal where service delivery protests threatened to derail the voter registration process at the weekend.

Tlakula said they would discuss the Bekkersdal situation with the country’s security establishments to ensure that there was peace during elections in such areas.

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