An Election Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND
An Election Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND

President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially proclaimed May 8 as the date of the general elections, touted as the most hotly contested polls since 1994.

It is a little over two months to go before the election in which the opposition parties are hoping to push the ANC below 50% in provinces such as Gauteng and Northern Cape.

The proclamation, which was signed by Ramaphosa on Monday and gazetted on Tuesday, marks the closure of the voters' roll and heralds in the official election timetable.

Read the Government Gazette notice below:

The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) said it would meet with the national party liaison committee on Wednesday before publishing the election timetable in the government gazette. It said the proposed election timetable spans the next 71 days and laid down the key dates and deadlines for various milestones until voting day.

The proclamation triggered the opening of the candidate nomination process for the elections. The IEC said the closing date for candidate nominations would be regulated in terms of the election timetable. Political parties contesting the national and provincial elections had to submit their lists either by using the electoral commission’s online candidate nomination system or hand delivering its list to the IEC’s head offices in Centurion.

The IEC is maintaining the R200,000 deposit for political parties wanting to contest in the national elections. A further R45,000 would need to be paid for each provincial election contested. This means that a party contesting national and all provincial elections will have to pay a deposit of R605,000.

The amounts are the same used in the 2014 elections.

Parties that fail to secure a seat in the National Assembly or provincial legislature would forfeit their deposit to the national revenue fund.

Last month, the IEC said there were almost 300 registered political parties in SA. It said there were 47 new political parties registered since January 2018 and a further 37 applications were pending at the time.

Disgruntled members of established political parties have formed breakaways in recent months, which are set to take part in the elections. It is yet to be seen how many political parties are able to afford the deposit to contest elections.

According to the IEC the number of votes required to secure a seat in both the national and provincial legislatures depends on the voter turnout of the elections. In 2014, parties needed 45,892 votes to be guaranteed a seat in the National Assembly and between 13,627 votes (Northern Cape) and 59,219 votes (Gauteng) for a provincial seat.