Pretoria - Smaller political parties are not impressed at the expense involved in contesting both national and provincial elections, charging that even if they’re registered, they can’t afford to fight the battle.

Registration fees for the election are R500 per party, according to Kate Bapela, chief communications officer of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), who said the IEC would announce “in due course” exactly which parties would contest next year’s elections.

Political parties, however, say they’re expecting more candidates than in 2009, when it cost R180 000 to contest the election on a national level, and R40 000 per province.

Parties that fail to get a seat in the National Assembly or provincial legislature lose their deposits to the National Treasury, while those that win a seat are reimbursed.

“The commission decides on a deposit, which it returns to the party in the event they secure a seat,” Bapela said.

Stephen Goodson, leader of the Abolition of Income Tax and Usury party, said “unless a fairy godmother comes along” the party would not be able to contest the elections.

“It’s ridiculous to pay so much money. Only the big parties can participate. It’s a major financial barrier to the smaller parties. If you can’t come up with the money, that’s that,” he complained.

He suggested it would cost a minimum of R200 000 to contest the election on a national level.

“Even if you do come up with the money, it’s a huge risk because if you’re not elected, you lose the money,” he said.

Jack Miller, leader of the Cape Party which advocates to see the Western Cape become an independent country, said he had not yet decided whether they would enter the fray next year.

The biggest hurdle was “the prohibitive fees”.

“It’s likely to be in the region of R200 000 nationally, and R45 000 per province.

“For a party like Cape, we certainly don’t have the same financial strength as the DA or the ANC. We would love to contest the national election and believe we would do very well if we did, but it’s very difficult for parties that are not part of the mainstream political structure,” he said.

Democratic Labour Party leader John Jullies said his party hoped to contest the elections, and that he was busy writing letters to 20 big companies in an effort to secure sponsors.

Jullies, who described the party as a “voice for coloured people”, said: “We hope people will listen to us. We hope they will take a chance on us. Our heart is in it and we’re going to try.”

JJ Januarie, leader of the National Independent Civic Organisation (Nico) said his party, which fought for the rights of the poor and stood against electricity and water cuts, would struggle to secure funds to contest the elections.

“The playing fields are not level. If you are not in power or in executive positions, no one wants to invest in you. It’s very, very difficult. But as soon as you are in power, investors will come,” Januarie said.

The People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) was registered, but wouldn’t contest the elections because it was “too expensive”, its leader Christopher John Grootboom said.

The party focused on disadvantaged communities, especially farm dwellers, he explained.

Grootboom said parties did not only need money for their deposit, but also for campaign material such as posters and T-shirts.

“You also need to pay for advertisements in the media and for door-to-door campaigning, so lack of funding is the biggest problem,” he said.

Bapela, explaining the costs involved in contesting the elections, said the deposits ensured that only parties of substance participated.

“The threshold is to avoid frivolity in the electoral process. Pertinently, it seeks to obviate the possibility of a very long ballot which raises the costs of printing to an unreasonably high proportion,” she added. - Pretoria News Weekend