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2-million South African expats win first voting-rights hurdle

By Adriana Stuijt     Feb 17, 2009 in Politics
The opposition Freedom Front Plus party in South Africa has just had a court application reconfirmed in the Pretoria High Court, granting all the country's estimated 2-million expats voting rights at embassies in the April 22 elections.
The high court ruling must still be ratified in the Constitutional Court on March 4.
The South African government was ordered by the Pretoria High court to create voting opportunies for all South Africans abroad because its present electoral law was discriminatory and thus unconstitutional -- a ruling which still has to be reviewed by the Constitutional Court early in March.
The electoral law had banned all South African expats who had gone abroad for jobs from voting at foreign diplomatic missions - this privilege was only reserved for state officials and their relatives stationed abroad and temporary travellers. This part of the electoral law has now been ruled unconstitutional at the Pretoria High Court.
SA voting rights forum abroad on Facebook:
The court case was lodged by the Freedom Front Plus party on behalf of UK-based South African teacher Willem Richter. The national elections will take place on 22 April 2009. Four major parties have joined forces in the Constitutional Court lawsuit.
Constitutional and human rights experts such as Suzanne de Vos say there seems to be little doubt that the Constitutional Court would confirm today's Pretoria High Court ruling, which also ordered acting president Motlanthle to not formally proclaim the election date until the Constutional Court has made its ruling. Once officially proclaimed in Parliament, new voter registration would close - thus barring voting rights for expats for yet another five years.
Motlanthle had 'casually mentioned' the election date during a 'debate' in parliament but had promised in 'personal discussions with the Freedom Front Plus, which lodged the application, not to formally ratify it in a parliamentary proclamation until the Constitutional Court ruling on March 4.
The Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Mulders immediately called on all expats to notify the Electorial Commission of their absence from the country at once - and where they plan to cast their vote, which would be at the nearest South African diplomatic mission where-ever expats now find themselves. There are only a few weeks left in which they can still register as new voters.
The party provides an online form on its website, which needs to be printed out, completed from:here
The completed form then can be faxed to South African fax number +2712-665-2420, and it will be forwarded at once to the Electoral Commission, Dr Mulder said.
The Freedom Front Plus urges the country's many hundreds of thousands of expatriates to make use of this golden opportunity to vote for the first time in the South African elections since 1994 - which was the last time when all South Africans were granted the opportunity to vote at foreign legations. Questions may be emailed to dalien@vf.co.za .
More about Expats, Voting rights, South Africa, Motlanthle, Foreign embassies
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