Early elections might be the new talk in the ANC but it will cause logistical and legal obstacles for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is responsible for organising and running them.
The IEC is using April 14 as the expected election day, but the final date will have to be announced by President Thabo Mbeki.
The working date for the commission is the same day on which the 2004 election was held.
The IEC launched its election logo in Midrand this week and declared itself ready to start the election process.
Asked whether earlier elections could be accommodated, Pansy Tlakula, chief executive officer of the IEC, told the Mail & Guardian that it will be difficult to hold elections at short notice.
“There are processes we have to follow, some logistical and others legal. The voters’ roll will close on the day that the election date is announced. Then we have to give parties a period in which they can submit their list of candidates.”
She said that if elections are held earlier than April certain obstacles will have to be taken into account.
“Just think of the printing of ballot papers. In December the whole of South Africa goes to sleep. It will be difficult to do printing then.”
Poor voter turnout is a source of concern for political parties, despite the 76,3% turnout in 2004.
“It is difficult to predict the voter turnout. In the 2006 local elections it was 48%, but that was because we had floods in some parts of the country. There are so many variables, you can never know.”
Tlakula ascribes the high turnout for national elections to the “hype and excitement” that goes along with national election campaigns.
“I think people are reminded of the elections in 1994, that is why they come out in bigger numbers.”
The election date will be announced after discussions between the IEC and Mbeki. The state of readiness of the commission will be taken into account, as will ways to accommodate the needs of the president and government.
“In 2004 we knew the plan was to have the inauguration of the president coincide with the 10th anniversary celebrations. So we took that date and worked backwards,” said Tlakula.
The IEC must factor into its planning the training of the party agents who will observe voting at the 19 000 voting stations.
It also wants to embark on a voter education campaign in the run-up to the elections.
There are 137 parties registered with the IEC, but the commission is hoping this will dwindle to a more reasonable number.
Women make up 55% of registered voters, slightly more than their proportion of the population. The population register shows 52% of the population are female.
Voter registration will take place on November 8 and 9.