South Africa’s Top Court Rejects Bid to Delay Municipal Vote
(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s top court rejected an application by the nation’s electoral commission to delay municipal elections, saying the vote had to take place within the legally stipulated time-frame.
“The commission’s application is dismissed,” and the election must take place between Oct. 27 and Nov. 1, the Johannesburg-based Constitutional Court said in a judgment on Friday. The government had previously declared that the election would be held on Oct. 27 pending the court ruling on a postponement.
The court will provide reasons for its judgment at a later date.
Under South Africa’s constitution, the election must be held within five years and 90 days of the last local government vote, which took place in August 2016. A panel headed by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke however found the contest was unlikely to be free and fair if that deadline was adhered to because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Independent Electoral Commission accepted his recommendation that the plebiscite be delayed.
The judgment is a setback for the ruling African National Congress, which failed to register candidates in 35 municipalities within an IEC deadline. The party had filed a lawsuit aimed at having the registration process reopened, but withdrew it pending the Constitutional Court ruling. It may now approach the Electoral Court to revive the case.
“The Constitutional Court ruling slapped down the IEC and has put the ANC in a very difficult position,” said John Steenhuisen, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance. “We, as the DA, will benefit and we are ready for the election and met the timetable.”
The electoral commission said it had noted the judgment, which required it to prepare for a vote that must be held by Nov. 1, and it will meet over the weekend to chart a way forward. An announcement on the electoral program will be made next week and an urgent meeting with political party representatives will be convened, it said in a statement.
Pule Mabe, the ANC’s spokesman, said he wasn’t immediately available to comment.
“We welcome the judgment,” said Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. “A number of by-elections have been held under Covid conditions since March last year and they have been held without any issues whatsoever.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.