Voters begin queuing for 2009 election

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pretoria - Registered voters have already begun queuing at polling stations around the country to make their mark in the country's fourth democratic elections today.

South Africans are expected to come out in their millions today to cast their votes in the country's fourth presidential and provincial democratic election.

Many woke up at the crack of dawn to try to beat the long, winding queues at the voting stations which open from 7am until 9pm.

More than 23 million people, including 16 000 in the diaspora, have registered to vote in what is being billed as the biggest election since the end of the apartheid government.

The Independent Electoral Commission however expects a voter turnout of at least 80 percent. This amounts to at least 16 million voters.

Registered voters going to their respective stations will need to remember to bring along their Identity Documents to enable them to vote.

At the voting stations, an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) official will mark the voter's left thumb with indelible ink, before giving them two ballot papers - one for provincial and one for national.

Voters will then go into a voting booth to make their mark next to the party of their choice.

The 2009 General Elections is a notable one because it is the first time South Africans overseas were allowed to cast their votes at missions abroad.

In March, the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg ruled that South Africans who were overseas and registered to vote could do so.

Voter registration of young people has also increased. According to the IEC's data, nearly 2.5 million people between 18 and 30 years old have registered to vote for the first time in this election.

IEC Chairperson, Dr Brigalia Bam, said she was excited with the voter enthusiasm, especially the interest among young people and first time voters.

She has reiterated the IEC's readiness for the elections, despite an increase in the number of people who have registered this year.

A total of 19 720, polling stations will be used in this year's election. Also, 9130 candidates appear on the various party lists.

Forty parties are contesting the election for the national assembly and the nine provincial legislatures; 26 parties are contesting for the national assembly, 17 937 applications for the special voting abroad in 106 countries were received and 215 000 election officials have been recruited and trained.

The election will be witnessed by 4900 domestic observers and 352 international observers.