Election Report:2006 Municipal Elections

Election Report: 2006 Municipal Elections

Overview

The 2006 municipal elections represented important milestones in the development of South Africa’s constitutional democracy. The first democratic elections of 1994 were held with little background information on the voting population and in the absence of a voters’ roll. While those elections are etched in the public imagination because of long queues of patient voters, every effort was made 12 years later to ensure as smooth and quick a voting process as possible.

Preparations for these elections started long before the actual Election Day and were based on evaluations of previous elections. In addition, the Electoral Commission contracted the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to conduct an extensive survey of voter participation. The results of the survey were largely positive and indicated a high level of satisfaction among South Africans about the democratic processes that are in place and with the work of the Electoral Commission in general.

Between the last municipal elections in 2000 and those reviewed in this report, the number of registered voters increased from 18 476 516 to 21 054 957. This increase was the result of ongoing registration but also of specific, targeted registration and two weekends for general registration. In an effort to improve access to voting stations, the number of voting districts was increased from 14 988 to 18 873.

In addition to improved infrastructural arrangements, the Electoral Commission utilised the full technology complement at its disposal to assist participants in the electoral process. Much of the work of information technology professionals takes place behind the scenes. However, this work impacts on a spectrum of activities, from delimitation of voting districts and candidate nominations to the results system.

One of the points highlighted in the HSRC survey was the need to target young people more actively in order to encourage them to participate in elections. The Electoral Commission proactively identified youth as a target group in its media and communications campaigns, both for the registration campaigns and for Election Day. We are pleased that these campaigns not only won a number of awards, but also contributed to a relatively high turnout of voters in the age group between 18 and 39.

The number of parties and candidates who participated in the 2006 municipal elections increased compared to previous municipal elections. Something that is particularly satisfying is that the proportion of female candidates has increased from 28,5% in 2000 to 34,8% in 2006. However, there is still room for improvement and the Electoral Commission is actively involved in efforts to encourage greater participation of women in the electoral process. The Electoral Commision considers this aspect important in view of the fact that women are the majority in the country and account for almost 55% of registered voters.

The municipal elections held on 1 March 2006 proceeded smoothly, except for isolated incidents where bad weather conditions presented logistical challenges. In the end, the weather did not deter voters who were determined to cast their ballots. Without exception, international and domestic observers declared the elections to be free, fair and credible.

Due to thorough planning and hard work, the election results were processed in record time and the Electoral Commission could publish the results within the period prescribed by law.

During preparation of this report, the Electoral Commission was already hard at work in evaluating the recent elections in order to learn lessons for the successful management of forthcoming democratic elections.

Advocate Pansy Tlakula
Chief Electoral Officer