South Africa’s electoral commission gave political parties more time to register candidates for upcoming local government elections, handing a lifeline to the ruling African National Congress, which risked ceding control over key towns after missing a previous deadline.
The decision follows last week’s ruling by the Constitutional Court that the vote must take place between October 27 and November 1, and that the voters’ roll must be reopened.
The court didn’t specify whether candidate registration should also be extended and the Independent Electoral Commission’s decision to do so could be subject to a legal challenge.
The ANC has been dogged by a shortage of funds and its staff have gone on strike because they haven’t been paid. The party blamed the IEC for its failure to register candidates in 93 municipalities, saying its computer systems had repeatedly malfunctioned.
Had the extension not been granted, the ANC risked losing power in about 35 local councils by default, including a number in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, one of its main strongholds. It also would have ceded control of the Tshwane metropolitan area, which includes the capital, Pretoria, to the opposition.
Africa’s oldest political movement, the ANC has ruled South Africa nationally since the nation’s first multiracial elections in 1994. It hemorrhaged support in the last municipal elections in 2016, a backlash against then-President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred rule, and lost control over the economic hub of Johannesburg and Tshwane. It has since regained power in Johannesburg.
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