Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
The numbers game: A technician prepares a results board at the Electoral Commission of SA headquarters in Pretoria ahead of an election in this file picture. Picture: REUTERS
The numbers game: A technician prepares a results board at the Electoral Commission of SA headquarters in Pretoria ahead of an election in this file picture. Picture: REUTERS

A potentially close electoral battle in the 2019 general election is one of the reasons the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) should not be granted an extension by the Constitutional Court, according to the official opposition.

Granting the IEC the extension could adversely affect the legitimacy of the country’s constitutional democracy, the parties argued in court papers.

The DA is among the parties opposing the IEC’s application to the Constitutional Court for an extension of the court-imposed deadline to obtain addresses for citizens on the voters’ roll by the end of June 2018.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court held that the failure to compile a voters’ roll with available addresses was inconsistent with the Constitution and was invalid, but the declaration of invalidity was suspended until June 30 2018. The IEC had until the end of June to ensure it records outstanding addresses on the voters’ roll.

The IEC has asked the Constitutional Court for an extension of another 17 months — from June 30 to November 29 2019 — to comply with an earlier order from the same court on fixing the voters’ roll. If the IEC is unable to complete the roll, it may have to invoke sections 11 and 12 of the Electoral Act as well as regulations, which would result in about 1.3-million voters being removed.

In its papers, the IEC says that should people be removed from the roll "there is a very real chance that parties dissatisfied with the 2019 electoral results will seek to challenge the outcome". The commission cautioned in its application that failing to extend the deadline could open the 2019 national election to legal challenges.

The court has granted the IEC an extension to September 2018 and will hear argument on the 17-month extension in August.

The DA’s Mike Moriarty, who represents the official opposition on the IEC’s party liaison committee, in an affidavit to the Constitutional Court argues that the IEC’s application for an extension is simply aimed at "immunising" the commission from potential court challenges to the outcome of the election.

Moriarty argued that this could affect whether the 2019 general election is indeed free and fair, particularly in provinces where the race between political parties is expected to be close.

marriann@businesslive.co.za

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