The DA has said it will challenge the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) should it show bias to the ANC in the upcoming local government elections.
This followed the court’s decision on Monday to dismiss the DA’s urgent application – which was supported by the EFF, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), African Transformation Movement and the South African Institute of Race Relations – to stop the re-opening of the nomination process for the local government elections on November 1.
(1/2) Judgment: The Constitutional Court held that the decision of the Electoral Commission to re-open the candidate nomination process for the 2021 municipal elections, in terms of this Court’s order issued on 3 September 2021, is not unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid.— Constitutional Court (@ConCourtSA) September 20, 2021
The DA said it accepted the court’s judgment but would continue to monitor the freeness and fairness of the elections.
The DA had raised a concern that the IEC’s re-opening of the candidates’ nomination processes would favour the ANC, which had only submitted its party list in 20 municipalities and 598 wards by the cut-off date on August 23.
The IEC’s wish was that the local government elections should be postponed to February 27, arguing the elections might not be free and fair next due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, but its application to the Constitutional Court failed.
The court said that it did not make a finding whether the IEC’s decision to extend the nomination of candidates was impeachable on the ground of ulterior motive because it did not hear oral arguments due to the urgency of the DA’s application.
After this judgment, the court said the DA and other political parties who may feel that the elections were not free and fair due to the IEC’s bias by extending the candidate cut-off date are not precluded from challenging it.
The judgment said:
DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille said the DA would not hesitate to use the opportunity to challenge the IEC if any further examples emerge of bending the rules to favour the ANC emerge during this year’s election.
“Given the fact that the IEC has previously disqualified parties that did not meet deadlines, and given an explicit statement before the Constitutional Court that it would not be possible to reopen voter or candidate registration if the elections were not postponed to 2022, the DA notes the 180° turn made subsequently by the IEC and the consequences of its decisions, which will undoubtedly favour the ANC, despite is manifest failures in sticking by the rules laid down for all parties,” Zille said.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela was not available to comment.
The IFP said in a statement that it “respectfully” disagreed with the Constitutional Court’s view that extending the candidate cut-off date was consistent with the legislative scheme and would enhance the freeness and fairness of elections.
IEC’s focus was the voters and not candidates
On September 3, the apex court ordered the IEC to convene the election between October 27 and November 1.
In response to this court order, the IEC decided to amend its timetable and set the dates for voter registration for September 18 and 19, after which political parties would then be allowed to nominate their candidates.
The DA argued that the court order limited the IEC to the addition of new voters to the roll and did not include any adjustment in respect of party lists and nominations.
The DA further argued that the court’s dismissal of the EFF’s request to amend the Disaster Management Act regulations to permit gatherings of more than 100 people so that political parties could conduct their internal processes for selecting candidates was a judicial determination to the effect that the candidate nomination process may not be reopened.
It also contended that the IEC’s decision to reopen the candidate nomination process was made in order to give the ANC a chance to remedy its failure to submit lists and candidates in certain municipalities.
The Constitutional Court ruled, in a unanimous judgment, that the order envisaged an amendment to the IEC’s timetable in respect of registration of new voters:
“In respect of the DA’s contention that the court’s refusal to grant the EFF’s relief in the main application was a judicial determination, the court rejected this contention. The court held that its refusal did not imply that the candidate cut-off date may not be extended.”