Electoral Dispute Resolution in South Africa

9 November 2011

With the recent publication of two new handbooks on electoral dispute resolution, Electoral Justice: The International IDEA Handbook (2010) and Guidelines for Understanding, Adjudicating, and Resolving Disputes in Elections (GUARDE) (2011) the BRIDGE electoral dispute resolution module has recently undergone an extensive and timely revision.

The first pilot of the new module, funded by International IDEA and the African Union, was run from the 10-14 of October in Pretoria where 24 EMB and civil society representatives gathered from across the SADC region and Kenya. The five day course led participants through discussions on national and international legal frameworks and standards, current practices and experiences, the prevention of electoral disputes, the various kinds of disputes that can be brought and the bodies responsible for adjudicating them, and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

While the importance of preventative and adjudicating measures to ensure a credible and genuine electoral process cannot be underestimated, it should also be recognized that electoral disputes are a natural part of the electoral process and that the ability to file challenges against an electoral process upholds ones’ electoral rights. In determining the bodies that are best equipped to adjudicate electoral challenges, participants explored the advantages and disadvantages of the different models and the ways in which alternative dispute resolution mechanisms can be of use in their respective contexts.

Throughout the workshop, participants noted their desire to bring the knowledge gained to their respective organizations and countries. In order to achieve these goals, the facilitators outlined successful training methods (as highlighted in the GUARDE publication) and guided the participants through the creation of training programmes for national and district level EMBs, political parties, civil society and the media among others.

The knowledge gained by the participants over the five days culminated in personal action plans designed to assist in fostering further developments of their respective electoral dispute resolution systems.

Representatives from electoral management bodies from Malawi, Swaziland, Seychelles, Kenya, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Lesotho were in attendance with the facilitation team including Rushdi Nackerdien, Sibongile Zimemo and Shana Kaiser.

As a follow-up to this initial pilot, a post-workshop review will further revise the module in order to streamline terminology, incorporate new activities and update current case studies.

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