The final votes have been tallied in South Africa, and the results are in. The national and provincial tallies have been published at the World Elections blog, with the key part being the national tally for the major parties:
- ANC 65.90% (-3.79%)
- DA 16.66% (+4.29%)
- COPE 7.42% (+7.42%)
- IFP 4.55% (-2.42%)
Looking at the results nationally, clearly the Democratic Alliance has gained ground, but only by a little. Congress of the People must be disappointed with their result. While the African National Congress has lost votes, little dent has been made on their dominance.
It’s more interesting when you examine the provincial votes. The African National Congress gained ground only in KwaZulu-Natal, which was one of their poorest provinces in 2004. They recovered 16% to 63%, with most of the vote coming at the expense of the Inkatha Freedom Party, who dropped from 34% to 20%. It appears that this would have had a lot to do with Jacob Zuma’s Zulu heritage, as the IFP’s base is centred on Zulus in KZN.
I haven’t had the time to determine what the swing against the ANC would have been outside of KZN, but you would have to think it would be substantially larger.
The other interesting fact from the provincial breakdowns can be seen in the Democratic Alliance vote. While the DA gained 21.86% in Western Cape, the other eight provinces saw very small swings, varying from a negative swing of 0.1% in Limpopo to swings of 3.23% in Free State and Northwest.
What do we take away from this? One interpretation is that the DA campaign focused largely on winning control of the Western Cape province as a stepping stone to future party development, and if this is true, they achieved their goal.
An alternative interpretation is that the DA remains essentially restricted to the white and coloured community, and their success in Western Cape simply reflects the fact that it is a more racially diverse province, allowing a minority white-dominated party to achieve success that it cannot in the rest of the country, which is so much more dominated by the black community.
If you subscribe to the first theory, then the DA’s new prominence as leader of a multi-party coalition government should give them the credibility to become a strong national opposition in 2014. If you subscribe to the second theory, then the problem of creating a credible South African opposition remains just as unsolved after last week’s election as it was five years ago.
It appears that any credible opposition that can defeat the ANC needs credibility amongst the black community, and that requires the party to broaden its base. It’s possible that a coalition of the DA, COPE and smaller parties in Western Cape could be the beginning of a new opposition coalition that can appeal to inland black voters.
Of course, it’s possible that Helen Zille could be South Africa’s Barack Obama, as she herself suggested, but that doesn’t seem very likely. It has been less than two decades since the end of apartheid, and I doubt black voters will willingly give up power to a new white-dominated government any time soon.