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South Africa’s election body asks top court to resolve Zuma candidacy

Zuma

The electoral court ruled this week that Jacob Zuma could run for president on behalf of the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK) [Emmanuel Croset/AFP]

South Africa’s electoral commission said it has appealed to the country’s highest court to rule on whether former President Jacob Zuma can stand as a candidate in general elections in May.

The commission said in a statement on Friday that it had lodged an “urgent and direct” appeal to the Constitutional Court to provide “certainty” on the proper interpretation of the constitutional article relating to candidacies of people who have been convicted.

“Such clarity is important in the present matter because of a live issue but also for future elections,” it said.

The appeal is the latest twist in a legal wrangle over the eligibility of the 81-year-old politician, after an electoral court ruled this week that Zuma could run for office, overturning an earlier decision that had barred him from contesting.

Zuma is hoping to run for president on behalf of the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK), which he joined last year after denouncing the governing African National Congress (ANC) party that he once led.

On May 29, South Africans will head to the polls to elect 400 members of the General Assembly. A month later, lawmakers in the new parliament will choose the next president.

Banking on the popularity of Zuma, MK hopes to win enough votes that would ensure them parliament seats, while also cutting into the vote share of the ANC.

The ANC could see its vote share drop below 50 percent for the first time since 1994. Short of a parliamentary majority, it would be forced to seek coalition partners to remain in power, turning Zuma into a possible kingmaker, analysts say.

Also Read: Former SA President Jacob Zuma Can Contest Elections as uMkhonto weSizwe Party Candidate; Court Rules

Some opinion polls suggested MK at above 10 percent nationwide, a share that would make it the third or fourth political force behind the ANC and the liberal Democratic Alliance.

The party is projected to make a particularly strong showing in the battleground region of KwaZulu-Natal – Zuma’s home province.

It largely relies on the considerable political clout still wielded by Zuma, who despite scandals and corruption allegations is popular, particularly among the country’s more than 10 million Zulus.

The electoral commission had disqualified Zuma, saying the constitution bars anyone sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail in June 2021 after refusing to testify to a panel investigating financial corruption and cronyism during his presidency.

His lawyers argued the sentence did not disqualify him as it followed civil rather than criminal proceedings and it had been shortened by a remission.

Zuma was freed on medical parole just two months into his jail term.

The commission stressed that the appeal “is not intended to involve itself in the political field of play” rather to ensure a “free and fair” electoral process.

By Agencies.

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