Carnival mood prevailing at voting stations

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By: 
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - A carnival mood has descended on South Africa as hundreds of people begin queuing at the 19 000 voting stations across the country.

The 23 million South Africans who are on the national voters' roll are expected to make their mark from 7am.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has reiterated its readiness to deliver the country's fourth election.

"We are ready to deliver a peaceful election to be witnessed by 4 900 domestic observers and 352 international observers. About 358 diplomats from 61 embassies will also visit polling stations," said the IEC Chairperson Brigalia Bam.

A total of 40 parties are contesting the election for the National Assembly and the nine Provincial Legislatures; 26 parties are contesting for National Assembly.

About 215 000 election officials have been recruited and trained for today's poll, while there are 23 181 997 registered voters.

On Monday and Tuesday, 86 578 special voters casted their votes.

A total of 15 international organisations have sent 320 observers to witness today's poll. While a further 51 South African organisations have sent a total of 5 000 domestic observers.

Polling stations open at 7am and close at 9pm. Special provision has also been made for persons with disabilities and other physical challenges as well as the blind.

In addition, the Commission produced voter and balloting education booklets for the visually impaired.

Dr Bam said for the past 14 years the Commission, had maintained its independence as enshrined in the Constitution, and had ensured that democratic values such as transparency, accountability, credibility and legitimacy in the running of free and fair elections were embraced and jealously guarded in all our elections.

"We have enjoyed a reputation of credible elections. We are happy at the way political parties have created space and environment for the electorate to be exposed to the diversity of this nation.

"We hope that all parties will continue to contest the elections in a robust manner but must abide by the spirit, principles and provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct which they have all signed," said Dr Bam.

Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Chief Electoral Officer of the IEC, thanked suppliers, civil society organisations, members of the public who participated in its different programmes, political parties, members of the diplomatic corps and the media for making the election possible.

Adv Tlakula said the IEC was excited that young people are keen on voting in the country's election.

"They are aware that voting makes them part of the decision-making process and consider it their responsibility to help ensure a lasting democratic society," she said.

In terms of the Electoral Act, final election results have to be released within seven days after the election. This is to cater for objections on results.