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IEC hits back at 'mischievous' ActionSA over election ballot papers

'The absence of the abbreviated name of ActionSA on the ward ballots is because, at the point of registering as a party, ActionSA elected not to register an abbreviated name or acronym,' the IEC said.

04 October 2021 - 18:35
The IEC says it will not amend its final draft ballot papers.
The IEC says it will not amend its final draft ballot papers.

The Electoral Commission (IEC) will not amend its final draft ballot papers to add ActionSA’s name next to its logo for the November 1 local government elections, despite the party threatening legal action. 

It made the revelation on Monday afternoon, after failing to meet ActionSA's 10am deadline to address the issue, or to meet in court.

The commission put the blame squarely on ActionSA.

“The use of registered particulars of a political party in the ballot paper design is intended to obviate ad hoc and arbitrary considerations. The unique identifiers are provided by each political party at the point of application for registration as a party.

“The absence of the abbreviated name of ActionSA on the ward ballots is because, at the point of registering as a party, ActionSA elected not to register an abbreviated name or acronym. ActionSA, in their documents in which they applied for registration as a political party, and which must be publicly lodged in terms of the regulations, responded with a 'Not Applicable' in the space where the political party was required to indicate its abbreviated name,” said IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela.

Herman Mashaba earlier argued that the party does not have an abbreviated name because its full name was already compliant with the IEC’s 8-character limit on abbreviated party names and, thus, the party’s name could always be always used in full.

The party has also contended that, according to the law, there is no provision which limits or empowers the IEC to rely solely on a party’s registration documentation for the construction of ballot papers — “our law remains silent on what information goes into a ballot paper”.

First time local government election contenders ActionSA says it is taking legal action against the IEC due to ballot papers not including the party's name in the abbreviated section. This after ActionSA stated in their registration form that there is no abbreviation for their name.

The commission, however, said that in terms of the electoral prescripts, it is empowered to determine the design of ballot papers to be used in an election using identifiers including: the name of the candidate, photo in case of an independent candidate, the logo (or distinguishing mark) of the party, and the abbreviated name of the party, where one has been registered. 

It also argued that Mashaba’s party was not the only one in that predicament as 14 other political parties appear on the various ballot papers without abbreviated names.

ActionSA said that it had been beset by issues with the IEC since its inception, claiming that, among other issues, a refusal to register - and to exclude - their candidates from a candidate list published last week.

Bapela dismissed the allegations levelled against the commission.

“The insinuation that the commission is acting without due impartiality is without foundation and is mischievous. The onus to choose party identifiers rests with the political party and not the commission and the scheme in the ballot design has been part of our electoral management practice since the inception of democratic local government in 2000,” she said.

ActionSA’s national chairperson,  Michael Beaumont, has since confirmed that the party’s legal team would take up the matter and was confident that it would emerge victorious in court.

“In this regard ActionSA has concluded a meeting with our legal team, who are bewildered by the commission’s refusal to remedy this issue. They have affirmed our position that there is no legal basis for the commission to refuse this request and are confident the courts will share this perspective.  

“The perspective is that, by refusing to remedy this issue, the IEC is in breach of its overarching responsibilities to ensure free and fair elections — a critical component of which is ensuring voters are able to identify their political parties in various ways that include the party logo, party name, acronym and party leaders. 

“It is deeply ironic that it was this very responsibility which lay at the heart of the commission’s refusal to register ActionSA” said Beaumont.