News / South Africa / Elections / Local Elections 2021

Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
3 Nov 2021
2:48 pm

Trust in IEC declining but politicians to blame for low voter turnout – HSRC

Thapelo Lekabe

The Human Sciences Research Council says the decline in trust in the IEC is partly due to 'general disillusionment' with the functioning of democracy.

A voter places his ballot in the box at the Union Building voting station on 1 November 2021, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

While 90% of registered South African voters had trust in the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), surveying by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) conducted over the past two decades has shown that trust in the Chapter 9 Institution declined in the last decade.

However, this decline in confidence has been minimal in comparison to the distrust in political institutions such as politicians, political parties and government.

This was revealed by the HRSC on Wednesday after releasing its Election Satisfaction Survey at the IEC’s results operations centre in Tshwane. The survey was commissioned by the IEC to determine the opinions and perceptions of voters about the commission’s electoral process.

ALSO READ: Majority of voters believe elections were free and fair, survey shows

The HSRC’s acting strategic lead and research director, Benjamin Roberts, said the declining trust in the IEC, as shown by other nationally representative surveying, was partly due to “general disillusionment” with the functioning of democracy and the performance of core political institutions.

“We look at quite a range of different institutions, both political and social. The ones I was particularly referring to were comprising the different spheres of government: national, provincial and local as well as Parliament, political parties and politicians,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the decline in confidence among citizens in political institutions was under 20%.

He said this might be one of the reasons behind the low voter turnout in Monday’s municipal elections, which has been estimated to be at 48% by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“We have seen a real collapse in confidence in the spheres of government over time, but particularly the executive and the legislature… But the actual start in the decline began around about in the mid-2000s,” he said.

Monday’s polls were ‘free and fair’

Based on an interim assessment of voter interviews collected on election day with more than 12,000 voters at 300 voting stations nationwide, the HSRC said registered voters were “overwhelmingly confident” that this year’s local elections were both free and fair.

“As with previous national and provincial as well as municipal elections, voters provided an overwhelmingly positive evaluation of the management performance of the IEC and the conduct of officials at voting stations.

“These voter evaluations point firmly to the continued integrity of elections in the country.”

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