South African Election ExtendedBy Paul Taylor
The Washington Post
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa
President Frederik W. de Klerk ordered Thursday that South Africa's historic multiracial election be extended through Friday in black areas where administrative problems made it difficult or impossible for people to vote.
The addition of a fourth day of voting, ordered amid a rash of complaints about voting irregularities and logistical snafus, drew support across the political spectrum. But it has also increased the likelihood that the vote count -- which now will not start until Saturday -- will be slow, messy and subjected to partisan challenges.
De Klerk, who ordered the extension on the recommendation of the multi-party Independent Electoral Commission, said he took the step because "we must be able to say that all South Africans who wished to vote were given the opportunity." Otherwise, he said, the legitimacy of his country's first democratic election would be "in jeopardy."
Earlier in the day, African National Congress President Nelson Mandela had charged in a nationally broadcast television interview that there was "massive sabotage" during the first two days of balloting.
As soon as Mandela made the allegation, the ANC began softening it -- not an unfamiliar two-step for an organization whose leader is prone to off-the-cuff commentary. ANC spokesmen said Mandela's remarks should be seen as an expression of frustration rather than as a sweeping indictment of the legitimacy of an election that is expected to make him president.
Voting went relatively smoothly Thursday throughout much of the country, as voting stations that were overrun on Wednesday were much less busy and more relaxed. Once again, there were virtually no reports of violence or overt intimidation.
All through Wednesday night and Thursday, South African Defense Force printing presses churned out millions of extra ballots, which were transported in military aircraft to regions of the country that had experienced shortages on Wednesday.
One of the unresolved mysteries of this electoral process is why, with an initial printing of some 40 million pairs of ballots -- one for the national legislature, one for regional legislatures -- for an estimated electorate of 22.7 million, so many polling stations either ran out of ballots or never received any.
The chagrined chairman of the electoral commission, Judge Johann Kriegler, has acknowledged that he does not yet know the answer. One possibility is that South Africa's census count was way off; another is that, in massive numbers, voters chose to cast their ballots outside areas where they live. There is no voter registration roll, so people could vote anywhere.