Disarray in South Africa polls, extra ballots printed

Johannesburg, April 23 (Inditop) South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said Wednesday evening that an extra one million ballot papers were being printed after they ran out in some places, spawning long delays, during the country’s fourth democratic national and provincial elections.

With less than 15 minutes to go before voting stations were due to close, an IEC official admitted they had just ordered more ballots, but said they were being printed as a “contingency measure” and had not yet been distributed.

The IEC has denied being ill-prepared for a high turnout in elections that are believed to be the most exciting since the country’s first multi-racial elections at the end of apartheid in 1994, given a split in the ruling African National Congress.

An estimated 19,000 polling stations were due to close at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT).

Although large numbers of voters were still waiting in darkness to cast their votes Wednesday night, the IEC did not extend voting hours, yet said the polls would remain open beyond midnight if necessary.

The election body claims to have printed 58 million ballots for a little over 23 million registered voters, 2.4 million more than in the 2004 elections. The IEC has predicted a voter turnout of about 80 percent, against 77 percent in 2004.

The IEC said the shortage of ballot papers and ballot boxes was caused by people taking advantage of a new dispensation allowing them to vote outside their registered areas, causing bottlenecks in others.

Counting is scheduled to start immediately after the end of voting. First results were expected early Thursday but the election commission has said final results could take two days.