Budget cuts for the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) could undermine democracy, says advocacy group My Vote Counts.
Last week, News24 reported that the IEC’s budget had been cut by almost R770 million over the next three years, with the IEC saying that the 2024 elections would be unchartered territory.
My Vote Counts expressed its deep concern about this cut in a statement released on Tuesday.
“This will undermine the IEC’s ability to carry out its mandate and is a threat to our democracy,” said the statement by My Vote Counts spokesperson Sheilan Clarke.
“The IEC is a Chapter 9 institution established by the South African Constitution to guard our democracy. Primarily, it administers our elections as well as the newly instituted Political Party Funding Act. The cut to the IEC’s budget is a long-term threat towards efforts to strengthen transparency and accountability, renew our electoral system and sustain our democracy.”
My Vote Counts recognised that the cuts did not exist in isolation, but were part of the government’s commitment to austerity budgeting.
The impact of the budget cuts included the following:
- There will not be a second weekend for voter registration for the 2024 provincial and national elections;
- Voter education and outreach will not be adequately funded;
- Implementation of the Electoral Amendment Act will be jeopardised;
- Additional staff can’t be appointed; and
- Plans to introduce an e-voting pilot project towards ensuring elections are free and fair are now underfunded.
“This commitment undermines the government’s ability to carry out its constitutional duties to deliver education, health and social services and cannot be justified. As we call for a strengthening of the IEC, we also call for an end to austerity measures.”
The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, to which the IEC presented its annual performance plan and budget last week, said in a statement that, while it was cognisant of the fiscal pressures facing South Africa, it believed that underfunding this important pillar of South Africa’s democracy should be reconsidered to ensure that democratic processes were not undercut.
Clarke said My Vote Counts fully supported the committee’s call.
“We simply cannot be weakening institutions that are so pivotal to the maintenance of our democratic dispensation.”