ActionSA is asking the Electoral Court to allow for stickers bearing its name to be put on the local elections ward ballot papers or consider delaying the elections in the wards it will be contesting.

This is due to the party’s name not appearing on the ward election ballot papers,  but only its logo appearing.

ActionSA was in the Electoral Court on Thursday after failing to persuade the IEC to insert its name on the final ward ballot papers.

Party omitted to provide an abbreviation: IEC

The IEC has said that the party omitted to provide an abbreviation of its name when it registered in December 2020. The abbreviation, which would then have appeared on the ballot papers. The party says the current ballot will result in it being unfairly prejudiced and undermine a free and fair election.

ActionSA says the IEC should have informed it about the implications of not providing an abbreviation of the party’s name at the point of its registration as a party. The party is in the Electoral Court challenging the Electoral Commission’s decision to omit its name from the local government ward ballot papers.

 

It is the duty of the Commission to warn applicants: ActionSA’s Lawyer

ActionSA’s Lawyer, Adila Hassim says since the Municipal Electoral Act or electoral regulations do not make filling out an abbreviation of a party compulsory, the IEC should consider its position and include its name on the ballot paper.

“The most obvious place for the Commission to notify applicants of the potential consequences of not ticking the box not filling in the box for an abbreviated name –  the obvious place is on the applications form. The application form contains no information that the choice not to fill out an abbreviated name is at the peril of the applicant because that is what the IEC would depict on the ward ballot paper together with its logo. It is the duty of the Commission to warn applicants that in the absence of an abbreviated name, only the logo will appear on the paper,” says Hassim.

No fairness if rejected

ActionSA says that it will be unfairly affected should the local government elections proceed without its name on the ward ballots and the Commission’s mandate of holding a free and fair election will be undermined.

“The prejudice to ActionSA is that it will not be participating on a level playing field. ActionSA was only registered on the 7th of December 2020, it does not have brand recognition. It also impedes the right of voters therefore to exercise their choice when voting. This is because voters will not be able to discern where and whether ActionSA is located on the paper where only its logo is used. It must be borne in mind it is a new political party and it could be perceived by some voters of the absence of ActionSA altogether on the ballot,” says Hassim.

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Stickers on the ballot paper or e a rubber stamp 

The party is asking that the IEC to print stickers with its name stuck on the ballot paper or use a rubber stamp on the already printed ward ballot papers. Alternatively, Hassim says that elections in the wards that the party is contesting be delayed.

“If there is a delay of a couple of weeks, there wouldn’t be prejudice to other political parties because it is a short delay and the point of the delay is to ensure a level playing field. So if you place the objections of other parties on one end of the scale, and ActionSA on the other end, then ActionSA must succeed because it involves the requirement of free and fair elections and the violation of a right. So in the balance, I would say a short delay would not prejudice other parties,” says Hassim.

IEC firm on decision

The IEC is however sticking to its guns, saying it does not have a responsibility to tell political parties what information they should include in their registration documents.

“If ActionSA was unsure, the onus was not on the Commission to hold ActionSA’s hand and tell it what political choices it should do when it is deciding how to register its name. The onus was on ActionSA to go to the Commission to say ‘if we don’t register an abbreviated name, what will that mean for us?’ and if the commission then had given a false or misleading answer to ActionSA, then it would have a case,” says Michael Bishop, IEC Lawyer.

Bishop has told the Electoral Court that it will be impossible for the IEC to comply with ActionSA’s proposal that stickers or stamps bearing its name be at voting stations by the 1st of November.

“If this court grants an order tomorrow,  the stickers and the stamps will be ready by the 28th and then according to Mr Short, they need one more day for delivery to the provincial warehouses of the Commission. That takes us to the 29th and then the stickers would need to be at the voting stations on the 29th, so it seems at this point, even if we accept Mr Short’s version. It is just not possible to have this done on time because it would a far greater interference with the freeness and fairness of these elections to have stickers and stamps appearing at some voting stations and not at other voting stations,” says Bishop.

Judgement has been reserved in the case.

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