Organizing the First Post-Apartheid Election, South Africa, 1994
Focus: Reducing Divisive Effects of Competition, Elections
Topics: Peace councils, Management of poll workers, Vote Counting, Election Security, Election Schedules, Dispute Resolution
Type: Case Studies
Author: Amy Mawson
Keywords: election security, election schedules, dispute resolution, vote counting, South Africa, founding election, election commission, election management body
South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission faced a daunting task in January 1994. The newly established body had less than four months to organize and implement the country's first fully inclusive democratic elections. The stakes were high. A successful vote would signal a new beginning for the nation after the apartheid era. Failure could mean civil war. Choosing suitable polling sites, dealing with parties' distrust, reaching alienated and possibly hostile communities, addressing potential spoiler issues and remedying shortages of electoral materials posed formidable challenges. The commission's difficulties snowballed. In the end, however, all parties accepted the election results and the Government of National Unity went ahead as planned. The elections offer an example of how an electoral commission can sustain political will-of parties and the public-to overcome administrative shortcomings in extremely sensitive circumstances. The case study discusses location of polling stations, temporary polling facilities, candidate access, ballots and ballot counting.