Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Leading political parties battle it out in by-elections

By Cindy Witten
and Mandisi Tyulu


41 municipal wards were up for grabs in today’s by-elections. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says 159 candidates contested 41 wards in the Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape.

Political observers say that this will be the first real test for the breakaway party Congress of the People (COPE), but that the new-comers greatest challenge, being the African National Congress (ANC), left the COPE feeling more confident after the registration botch on the part of the ANC.

Twelve ANC candidates had been barred from taking part in the by-elections because their names were not registered in time.
IEC’s Courtney Sampson says that apart from the ANC’s bungle, the day’s events ran smoothly.
“The court made a decision yesterday that ANC candidates could not participate in the City of Cape Town and the Cederberg. The ANC had in the mean time brought another court application to the electoral court, asking for the postponement of the election, but that is quiet at the moment. We are going according to plan,” said Sampson.

However, the ANC has expressed its disapproval of the IEC’s court ruling. The party urgently approached the Constitutional Court after the Electoral Court ruled yesterday that the party cannot take part in the by-elections in the City of Cape Town and Cederberg Municipality because it missed the deadline for registering its candidates. ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte says that the IEC is inconsistent in its ruling because in 1994 other political parties were late as well but the IEC was lineate.

“The basis of the IEC’s court ruling, we find actually rob voters of voting for an organisation of their choice. It is a constitutional right in South Africa to vote for a party of one’s choice, and the IEC is denying the right to do so,” said ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte.
Independent Democrats (ID) leader, Patricia de Lille says this would teach the ANC a lesson they must respect the rule of law and admit that they have failed to register in time.
“They have failed to be ready and organised in time, and therefore they should just accept the results and move on,” said de Lille.

Meanwhile, interim provincial spokesperson for the COPE Nils Flaatten says that the party is confident they are in for a big win across the 27 wards they are contesting in the Western Cape.
“We were excited about today, seeing as all the challenges around court battles are behind us. We are keen to get to the ballet boxes, although we would have liked to see all parties registered,” said Flaatten.
He said that the COPE has received positive feedback and that members are mobilised and on the ground.

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