Mixed reaction from political parties on IEC's decision to ask court to postpone elections

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Local government elections are set for October.
Local government elections are set for October.
  • The IEC received a mixed reception from political parties on its decision to approach the court to postpone the municipal elections.
  • The IFP welcomed the decision, the DA and FF Plus are opposed to it and GOOD, while it wanted the elections to go ahead in October, accepts the decision.
  • This was after retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke found that a free and fair election would not be possible.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa's (IEC) decision to ask the court for an order postponing the local government elections received a mixed reception from political parties.

On Friday, the IEC announced that it accepts retired deputy chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke's recommendation that the IEC approach a court of competent jurisdiction to seek a just and equitable order for the deferral of the elections to not later than February 2022.

This was after Moseneke found that it would not be possible to have free and fair elections given the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The election is currently scheduled for 27 October. The IEC said it would continue to prepare for this date until a court provides clarity.

READ | IEC to approach courts to postpone October's municipal elections

The DA, who opposed postponing the election when it was first mooted, said it took note of the decision.

"The DA's position remains unchanged - we did not support the postponement of an election based entirely on the equivocal provisions of the Constitution which call for regular, free and fair elections," said party spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube.

"We will, however, be studying the submission of the IEC to the Court to specifically look at the mechanism that the Commission seeks to use to postpone the election. It is absolutely important that this process is in line with the spirit and letter of the Constitution and protects the rights of all South Africans to go to the polls and elect a government of their choice. We will also be looking at issues of precedent that could be set by this postponement and, on the basis of those specifics, make a decision on the next steps."

Conversely, the IFP welcomed the decision.

"The IFP has long called for a postponement until May 2022 - as we believe this will give our population the opportunity to attain herd immunity. We are further willing to support the amendment of the Constitution, so that any postponements deemed necessary for health and safety – as well as to meet the requirements for free and fair elections – can meet constitutional muster," IFP chief whip Narend Singh said.

"We again remind the IEC of the necessity to give all political parties sufficient opportunity to prepare, and that they provide at least three months' notice of the new election date, once pronounced."

The IFP reiterates again that health and safety must always come first - our people must never become mere voting fodder.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald voiced his party's opposition to the decision.

Groenewald said in a statement in contrast to the IEC's assumption that there will be a wave of Covid-19 infections in October, that several credible projections have the next wave from middle December until January.

Groenwald also sees another red light flashing. The Constitution requires that the elections are held within 90 days after the current term ends.

'Maintain and protect democracy'

"If the Constitutional Court were to allow that some provisions of the Constitutional Court are not executed, situations could present itself in the future were provincial and national elections are postponed. It could create a precedent for this," he said.

"This would be a serious contravention of Section 1 of the Constitution, that should ensure that the country's democracy is maintained and protected, with regular elections at its core."

ALSO READ | Delayed elections: Necessary but tragic

GOOD secretary-general Brett Herron said his party's submission to Moseneke was that the local government elections should proceed in October because the Constitution requires regular elections and is prescriptive about the length of a term of office and because they were of the opinion that the elections could be free and fair.

"We nevertheless accept that Judge Moseneke had the difficult task of advising the IEC on whether the elections could be free and fair in the context of the Covid pandemic and that he considered the views of a large number of people, including health experts and independent election monitoring groups," said Herron.

"We, therefore, accept his conclusion that it is possible, or even likely, that the elections may not be free and fair if they proceed in October 2021. We remain committed to the supremacy of the Constitution and that the foundation of our democracy is fixed terms of office and regular elections that are always free and fair."

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