IEC seeks to postpone latest round of by-elections due to Covid-19

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
The IEC says the current regulations will curtail political activities, 'imperilling' the freeness and fairness of the elections. File photo.
The IEC says the current regulations will curtail political activities, 'imperilling' the freeness and fairness of the elections. File photo.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

The second wave of Covid-19 and strict regulations limiting gatherings have forced the Electoral Commission (IEC) to seek a postponement of the latest rounds of by-elections.

The IEC announced on Monday that it has again approached the Electoral Court to postpone by-elections after the implementation of Covid-19 level 3 lockdown restrictions.

The commission is seeking the court’s approval to postpone by-elections scheduled for January 20, February 3 and February 17 on the basis that the latest regulations curtail political activities, “imperilling” the freeness and fairness of the elections.

The application also seeks to extend the 90-day period within which by-elections to fill councillor vacancies must take place.

“The Electoral Commission noted that even though many of the preparations for the by-elections have been concluded, and protocols are in place for the safe conducting of elections as piloted in November and December, the regulations prohibiting political activities will seriously hamper campaigning by candidates and political parties,” it said on Monday.

The IEC said it had consulted political parties before approaching the court and all parties expressed support for the postponement.

It said the by-elections scheduled for March 3 remained on track for now.

The commission said it noted that voter registration was scheduled for January 23 and 24 and that political parties and candidates may be hindered from undertaking proper preparations for the registration weekend, given the regulations which remain in place until at least January 12.

The commission said it would monitor developments closely before a decision was made on whether to proceed or seek another postponement for the March 3 by-elections.

The IEC put by-elections on hold by eight months in March last year after the declaration of a national state of disaster and the imposition of the lockdown restrictions intended to curb the spread of coronavirus.

It only went ahead with elections in November after President Cyril Ramaphosa's cabinet moved the country to alert level 1.

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