Wed Oct 26 11:41:15 SAST 2016


By unknown | Jan 09, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Election fever is gaining momentum. Political parties and other interest groups - including the media - are laying out their plans for what promises to be one of the most exciting elections since 1994.

Election fever is gaining momentum. Political parties and other interest groups - including the media - are laying out their plans for what promises to be one of the most exciting elections since 1994.

As part of its 97th anniversary celebrations, the ANC will launch its election manifesto in East London - which is in the party's Mathole region, also the party's largest region.

During a recent media briefing ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the party's manifesto "will be launched at the home of the ANC".

Yesterday ANC spokesman Carl Niehaus confirmed that the party had chosen the Mathole region to launch its manifesto and said this was also because of the strong foundation of support the ANC had in the area.

This is the area in which the newly formed Congress of the People also claims to have made serious inroads.

The region is also home to one of the ANC dissidents who is also a co-founder of Cope - Mluleki George.

Niehaus predicted yesterday that the ANC would win a significant majority in the region and in the whole of Eastern Cape.

The SABC launched its multimillion-rand election coverage plan yesterday.

According to acting chief executive officer Gab Mompane, the public broadcaster has budgeted R42million for this year's election coverage.

Announcing the plan, SABC head of news Snuki Zikalala said the public broadcaster was committed to ensuring that the public was informed about all the political parties participating in the elections.

This is to enable them to make informed choices come election day, he said.

The most important task for the parties participating in the elections is to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. They need to convince the voters that their policies - articulated in their manifestos - are the ones that will improve their lives.

What then becomes important is having an informed and discerning electorate. A discerning electorate is able to see through the false promises politicians make during electioneering. Most importantly, a discerning electorate will hold accountable those it puts in power through the ballot.

But maybe as our democracy matures there will be a need to further enhance voters' empowerment. Even more responsibility will be placed on voters as we will probably move into an electoral system where voters elect their representatives into Parliament directly.

Just like in the United States, such a development could also offer members of civil society an opportunity to actively participate in the strengthening of our democracy.

We can learn from an initiative a group of volunteers in the US run, called Vote Smart. The focus of the project is to provide "abundant, accurate and relevant information to voters on candidates participating in an election".

These volunteers spend endless hours researching the backgrounds and records of thousands of political candidates to find out whether they have held political offices before, to research their campaign contributions, public statements, biographical data, including their employment history and so on.

In addition, the volunteers compile evaluations of the candidates generated by special interest groups, such as women, youth and church organisations.

The volunteers also test each candidate's willingness to provide citizens with their positions on the issues they will most likely face if elected. This is done through what is called the "Political Courage Test".

All this information is then made available via a hotline that members of the public can call.

While beneficial to the electorate, such an initiative can also benefit political parties in the long-term because it raises the bar when it comes to the quality of candidates.


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