Bite the ballot: The IEC’s shoestring election

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Bite the ballot: The IEC’s shoestring election

Commission's budget for next year's general election is down R300m on that spent on the 2014 poll

Journalist


The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will run next year’s election on a shoestring after the National Treasury approved a budget that is R300m less than that for the previous general election.
As a result, the IEC will have only one registration drive, in January, instead of two, as originally planned.
The IEC confirmed that the total cost of the election next year is projected to be R1.2bn.
It asked the Treasury for more money, but the strained fiscus means it has had to tighten its belt.
The elections are funded by R550m from this year’s budget and R650m from the allocation to the IEC next year.
This is based on the IEC expecting the elections to take place in May next year. The combined figure of R1.2bn is less than the budget for the 2014 general election, which cost taxpayers just over R1.5bn.
“The fiscus is constrained; there is only so much cake for the whole country,” chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo told Times Select.
He said that when the IEC’s request to the Treasury for more money was turned down, it decided to adjust its plans for the sixth general election of the democratic era.
“Had we had more money, perhaps we would have created another registration opportunity. Instead of having one registration weekend in January, we would have chosen to have another one,” Mamabolo said.
“To the extent that we don’t have every cent we requested, we adjusted our plans accordingly and we are working on the basis of the available budget.”
So far, the IEC has spent more than R400m of its election budget on a registration drive in March this year.
The registration weekend next year is expected to be used to gather the addresses of registered voters, after the Constitutional Court ruled that the IEC had to have these.
The addresses of just under 1.6 million registered voters have not yet been captured by the electoral commission.
Mamabolo said that going into the last phase of planning the election, the IEC is focusing on ensuring that vote-counting processes are reliable and efficient.
“You can run a voting process as well as you wish, but if your counting procedures are flawed, or there are problems with your counting procedures, the will of the people as expressed in the ballot could potentially not find its way into the result of the elections,” he said.
The IEC is also concerned about election-related violence and has called on political party leaders not to incite it.
“Our anxiety is that antagonism must not result in a very violent election campaign. We think we owe it to the country and its people for political parties to run a campaign that is clean, that is robust, and brings about an election outcome that is credible,” Mamabolo said.
The electoral commission is also expected to take a hard line against political parties and their leaders who make statements on social media that violate the electoral code of conduct.
“Our political leaders must demonstrate a measure of maturity within the context of a robust election campaign,” Mamabolo said.
The IEC is worried about election-related violence, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. “There have been a lot of killings of people in political office and so on. We hope the release of the Moerane commission report [on political killings in the province] will contribute to the creation of a climate that is consistent with a credible electoral process.”

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