Editorial: IEC is doing no one any favours

A voter shows off their inked thumb that shows that they have cast their vote. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

A voter shows off their inked thumb that shows that they have cast their vote. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The Independent Electoral Commission is one of South Africa’s most vital institutions: it underpins the functioning of our democracy.

  Without free and fair elections, we would not be a democracy, so we have to have a well-ordered mechanism to ensure their legitimacy. There has to be complete buy-in from the electorate and all political parties; all have to accept and respect the rules set and administered by the IEC if the process at the heart of our democratic dispensation – voting – is to represent the will of the people, and if our politicians are to be true leaders.

It is thus disheartening to see the IEC convicted of a major dereliction of duty. The Constitutional Court has found that it failed “for well over a decade” to register the addresses of people on the voters’ roll, which is necessary to prevent double or triple voting and the busing in of voters from outside a particular area to tip the balance in a contest. The court found the IEC was “nonchalant” about doing this and, more worryingly, less than quick to own up to its errors and attempt to correct them.

A compromised IEC undermines democracy. Some political parties have already cried that the IEC is biased towards the governing party, and conflict can only arise if the IEC is unable to manage the process (and its reputation).

It must be said, though, that in this particular case of dereliction, it’s hard to see bias: rather, it’s an even-handed disservice done to all democratic South Africans.

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