AU declares poll free and fair

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pretoria - The African Union (AU) has declared the country's 2009 General Election free and fair.

"It is our considered judgement that the election process was conducted in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner."

The vibrancy of the electorate "had done honour not only to the people of South Africa but to Africa as a whole," said the leader of the African Union Observer Mission, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim on Friday.

The mission had also noted that the voting process was an inclusive one.

"This includes the special arrangement for the disabled and the aged to exercise their right to vote as well as the participation of those South Africans who had registered to vote but were abroad on the day of the election."

Although there were some logistical and irregular issues in the running of South Africa's fourth democratic elections on Wednesday, they did not affect the electoral process adversely, the AU had found.

Dr Salim said among some of the concerns was the incident in which a number of ballot papers were found on a street in Mpumalanga.

Commenting on the arrest of an IEC official on charges of fraud in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Salim said: "The due processes should take place, but such behaviour is unacceptable."

A presiding officer at a voting station in Ulundi allegedly stuffed a ballot box with ballot papers. The official, who was charged with violating the Electoral Act, had appeared in court and was granted bail.

The AU further said that some anomalies the IEC needed to look at included the long queues at some polling stations. This could have lead to voter frustration.

The mission further said the issue of voters who were registered at a particular voting station and were allowed to vote at another on voting day as well as the display of party literature within the perimeters of voting stations should be addressed.

"We believe this goes against the spirit of Article 108 of the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 prohibiting certain political activities on voting day," said Dr Salim.

The AU commended the IEC for its efforts in promoting gender balance in the electoral process.

Commenting on the recommendations, IEC Chairperson Brigalia Bam said the commission would consider their input seriously, adding that the commission would discuss the matter with political parties.

"We will write letters of acknowledgement to all missions," said Ms Bam.

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