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22 Apr 2009 18:41
The African National Congress (ANC) on Wednesday called for the extension of voting hours in provinces where voter turnout had been especially high.
“The IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] needs to come to the party and extend voting hours to ensure that all South Africans can exercise their democratic right to vote,” said spokesperson Jessie Duarte at the IEC Centre in Pretoria.
She said the ruling party was “generally happy” with the way the election was progressing barring a few incidents dotted across the country.
“Our major concerns are in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape,” Duarte said, noting an incident in Ulundi where a presiding officer was arrested after marked ballot papers were found.
“In Ekurhuleni and Tshwane voting hours need to be extended, they have also run out of ballot papers at some stations ... but we were told that papers were being redirected to those stations,” she said.
Duarte said the commission should consider extending hours in Ethekwini in KwaZulu-Natal because of the long queues there.
She also expressed concern about electoral officers at stations being “under stress” due to high voter turnout.
Duarte said the election marked a defining moment in South Africa’s history as the electorate “was not spoilt for choice” in terms of political parties.
“South Africans are also turning out in there millions ... and in all modern democracies voter turnout is declining, but not in ours,” she said.
Other political parties have also raised concerns about the shortage of ballot papers in certain areas, with the Democratic Alliance saying 24 polling stations in Gauteng, Western Cape and the Free State had run out.
IEC chief electoral officer Pansy Tlakula, speaking at a media briefing earlier, said the commission would decide later on whether to extend voting hours.
Zille slams “pathetic” IEC
An angry Helen Zille slammed the IEC on Wednesday evening for running out of ballot papers and boxes and refused to back the call by the ANC for voting hours to be extended.
“I think the turnout was great, but the IEC was pathetic. They ran out of ballot papers, they ran out of ballot boxes,” the Democratic Alliance leader and candidate for premier of the Western Cape said in a telephone interview.
“You don’t extend voting hours because you failed to get it right the first time round. It really makes me so angry.
“It will only benefit the ANC because they have queues going round the block,” Zille said.—Sapa
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