South Africa 2009 Archive


Wrapping up South Africa

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.


South Africa update

Since I last updated yesterday morning, most of the votes in South Africa have been counted, and the vote percentages have shifted significantly.

With about 15 million votes counted, the latest figures are as follows:

  • ANC – 66.56%
  • DA – 15.95%
  • COPE – 7.5%
  • IFP – 4.45%
  • ID – 0.9%

In addition, the Democratic Alliance has won a slim majority of the vote in the provincial election in Western Cape, which should give DA leader Helen Zille the Premiership of the province.

On the current trends, it appears that the ANC will reach its two-thirds majority. Although you would have to consider such a figure to be symbolic. The Mbeki administration held a larger two-thirds majority since the 2004 election, without any dramatic changes to the constitution. When you consider the ongoing divisions within the ANC, you would have to say that Zuma won’t have sufficient control over the National Assembly to be able to dictate constitutional change, even if he wanted to.

While the opposition vote has only increased slightly, they will be in a stronger position in the future. Zille’s leadership of Western Cape makes her a stronger candidate in the future. Talks of potential alliance between DA, COPE, the IFP and possibly the Independent Democrats opens up the possibility of giving Zille credibility amongst black voters.

While Zille’s DA has performed well amongst the white community, black voters are still firmly aligned with the ANC, and they will continue to hold a lock on re-election as long as they stay dominant amongst South Africa’s black voters. The credibility of some of COPE’s leaders due to their experience as part of the ANC during the apartheid era could help a unified opposition challenge the ANC in South Africa’ s black heartland.


Early South African returns

Polls have closed now in South Africa. I’ll be at work soon and won’t be able to keep up with the vote-counting, but some early results have come through.

Update: with about 266,000 votes cast (out of an estimated total of about 23 million), we have:

  • ANC – 54.91% (69.69%)
  • DA – 29.89% (12.37%)
  • COPE – 7.55% (-)
  • ID – 3.22% (1.7%)
  • FF+ – 2.28% (0.89%)
  • IFP – 1.42% (6.97%)

In brackets is their 2004 performance.

If these results hold, it will be a disappointing result for the ANC, running perilously close to losing their majority. It appears that a two-thirds majority is out of reach. It is also a strong performance for Helen Zille’s Democratic Alliance, with almost 30%.

It also appears that Zille is on track to become Premier of Western Cape, where the DA is polling a solid majority. They are also running a close second in Gauteng. In comparison, the ANC won in every provincial legislature in 2004.


South Africa votes

South Africa’s voters are now going to the polls in their fourth post-apartheid election. I’ve previously blogged about the campaign, and will just post here an article of mine published in today’s Crikey Daily Mail:

South Africa’s voters go to the polls today to vote in their fourth post-apartheid election. While the ruling African National Congress looks set to continue its domination of South African politics, the country’s opposition is taking a tentative step towards becoming a credible alternative to the ANC.

The ANC has easily won every election in the country since the first multi-racial election in 1994. Nelson Mandela led the ANC into the first election, before being succeeded by Thabo Mbeki, who led the party to bigger victories in 1999 and 2004. The party’s vote rose from 62% in 1994 to almost 70% in 2004, giving the ANC the two-thirds majority necessary to make constitutional changes without the support of any other party.

South Africa uses a very proportional electoral system, with 400 members of the National Assembly. 200 are elected on a national basis, while the other 200 are elected off provincial party lists. Today’s election also sees South Africans elect the legislatures in the nine provinces.

While Mbeki was dominant over all other parties in the Assembly, the challenge to his authority came from within his party, with left-leaning elements of the party putting up Jacob Zuma for the party’s Presidency in 2007. Zuma defeated Mbeki, putting himself in a position to lead the party into the next election.

Jacob Zuma’s support base included the South African trade union movement and the South African Communist Party, as well as his supporters in the Zulu community. Zuma has faced numerous accusations of corruption, with charges being brought against him in 2005, when he was Deputy President, and in 2007 shortly after he was elected ANC President. The charges were dropped on 6 April, but that hasn’t stopped the opposition parties from questioning Zuma’s integrity.

After corruption charges were dropped in September 2008, the Zuma-dominated ANC pressured Mbeki into resigning as President, and, as Zuma is not a sitting MP, the ANC’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe succeeded Mbeki. Motlanthe will step down after the election.

The ousting of Mbeki saw the departure of some Mbeki loyalists from the ANC, founding a new opposition party, the Congress of the People. The party is seen to sit to the right economically to Zuma’s ANC, with Cope supporting Mbeki’s neoliberal policy agenda. The other main opposition party is the Democratic Alliance, the successor to the white, liberal, anti-apartheid parties of the Apartheid era.

Facing the opposition of both DA and Cope, the ANC campaign has become fiercer in the last few days. ANC Youth League president Julius Malema made controversial comments against the DA’s leader, Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, saying “Helen Zille is racist and fake, even her face is not original. Her real face is ugly, that is why she had plastic surgery. DA’s policies are just as fake as her,” while saying of Cope that “Come Wednesday, we will be burying Cope. After April 22 some among them who have weak hearts will get heart attacks and for those who have diabetes, it will be high.”

The party has also brought out the big guns, with former President and ANC leader Nelson Mandela appearing at a rally with Zuma. In contrast, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has attacked Zuma, calling him unfit for office.

The Democratic Alliance has focused on a “stop Zuma” campaign, drawing attention to the possibility of a two-thirds ANC majority, allowing the party to change the constitution on their own. Zille has raised the prospect of South Africa falling into the same economic and dictatorial trap as Zimbabwe, becoming a “failed state”.

There hasn’t been much in the way of polling of the election, but it seems clear that Zuma is headed for a slightly reduced majority, which may remove the ability of the ANC to change the constitution. The electoral commission is expecting high turnout in what has been the most interesting election in South Africa’s short history of multiracial democracy.

It’s unclear how DA and COPE will perform, and how that will shape future anti-ANC politics in South Africa, but DA leader Helen Zille may well be on track to be Premier of Western Cape, a province with high support for the DA. This may well give her a platform to present a genuine alternative to the ANC in the future, which is essential if South Africa is to be a functioning democracy in years to come.


Zuma headed for landslide

South Africa heads to the polls on Wednesday for their fourth post-apartheid election, and it seems clear that Jacob Zuma will lead the African National Congress to its fourth consecutive landslide victory.

Read the rest of this entry »


World election news – April 7

We’ve got a bunch of global elections taking place over the next two months. I have posted an electoral calendar in the sidebar. These include elections in South Africa, India and Iceland, a parliamentary election in Indonesia, a referendum on Daylight Saving in Western Australia, and a state by-election for the seat of Fremantle in Western Australia. In order to cover the stories in all of these campaigns, I’m gonna start a regular post covering them all. I may go more indepth on each election.

  • Indonesia goes to the polls this Thursday to elect its national Parliament. Sitting president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party is leading in the polls on 27%, up from 7% at the 2004 election, which will make it easier for Yudhoyono to run on his own for President. Jakarta is three hours behind AEST, meaning that, if this story is correct, we should see most of the results come in on Thursday night. I’ll try and cover it on the night. The best story I have found to wrap up the state of the parties is this one in the Wall Street Journal.
  • Google has launched a fantastic website for the upcoming Indian election, including a brilliant Google Map (although I can’t find a way to download it into Google Earth). Have a play.
  • Fairfax’s WA Today has a great article from last week laying out the issues we have played out on the blog this week regarding the possible Liberal candidacy in the Fremantle by-election, as well as raising the issues Peter Tagliaferri may have in getting Labor preselection for the seat.
  • In South Africa, ANC party president and presidential candidate Jacob Zuma has dodged the latest criminal charges, with the National Prosecution Authority dropping charges against the embattled frontrunner just two weeks out from the election.
  • Less than three weeks out from Iceland’s parliamentary election, it’s worth looking at the polls. While one poll in January put the Left/Green Movement in first place, most polls since then have put the Social Democratic Alliance. Last week’s poll saw the SDA on 29.4%, Left Green on 27.2%, the right-wing Independence Party on 25.4% and the centrist Progressive Party on 10.7%.

2009 election preview: South Africa

The Republic of South Africa will go to the polls for its fourth national election since the end of Apartheid, with the election expected between April and June 2009. The election will see the African National Congress attempt to win a fourth term in office, the first under a new leader since the deposition of Thabo Mbeki as leader in 2007.

South Africa elects its 400-member National Assembly through a proportional party list system. 200 seats are filled on national lists, while another 200 are filled from provincial lists. Despite the fact that the President is the head of the executive government, South Africa resembles a parliamentary democracy, as the President is elected following each parliamentary election by the National Assembly and is reliant on support in the NA to remain in office, making him more like a Prime Minister. The constitution limits Presidents to two full terms in office, which in practice is about ten years.

Since the first multi-racial election in 1994, South African politics has been dominated by the African National Congress. The party has decisively won all three elections, winning 62% in 1994, 66% in 1999 and almost 70% at the 2004 election. The party was led into the 1994 election by Nelson Mandela. Mandela retired in 1999, and was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki, who remained in office until September 2008.

Because of the ANC’s complete dominance, much of South Africa’s politics that would be fought out between political parties in most countries takes place within the internal structures of the ANC. This has resulted in the ANC being a broad party with widely diverging ideologies between different sections of the party. This came to the fore at the National Conference in December 2007, when former Deputy President Jacob Zuma challenged Mbeki for the ANC’s Presidency, which is generally considered a precursor to becoming President of South Africa. Mbeki was defeated by Zuma. Zuma had been dismissed as Deputy President in 2005 over corruption charges and had a generally poisonous relationship with Mbeki. His supporters are considered to be the left wing of the party, including the South African Communist Party and much of the trade union movement, while Mbeki was considered to support more neoliberal economic policies and be supported by the right wing of the party.

In September 2008, corruption charges against Zuma were dismissed, and allegations were made of political interference in the trial by Mbeki and his supporters. In response, the ANC National Executive Committee, dominated by Zuma supporters, called on Mbeki to resign, which he did on 25 September. The South African constitution requires that a caretaker president be either a deputy president or a sitting MP. As Zuma was neither, Zuma supporter Kgalema Motlanthe, Zuma’s Deputy President of the ANC, was chosen by the National Assembly. Zuma will be the party’s presidential candidate at the upcoming elections.

While the ANC dominates South African politics, there are other parties who will contest the elections. While fifteen parties have representation in the Assembly, only three, including the ANC, have more than a handful of MPs. The Opposition is led by the Democratic Alliance, led by Helen Zille. The DA is the successor-party to the Progressive Party, which was the only white party in Parliament to oppose Apartheid for much of the 20th century. The party holds 47 seats.

The third-largest party is the Inkatha Freedom Party, or IFP. The IFP was originally an anti-apartheid rival to the ANC, and was once close to the size of the ANC. However, the party has done worse at each national election, polling 7% in 2004.

The only other significant challenger is a new party, Congress of the People, formed by right wing elements of the ANC who left after Zuma’s defeat of Mbeki. The party is led by Mosiuoa Lekota, Mbeki’s Minister of Defence, and is pursuing a neoliberal policy approach and is critical of Marxist elements within the ANC. It is hard to gauge their support levels, due to the lack of opinion polls and South Africa’s floor-crossing legislation, which only allows party changes for a few days every two years, and only if 10% of a party caucus agrees, making it impossible for ANC MPs to defect to the new party prior to the election. While it remains unclear if the new party will be successful in threatening the ANC’s domination, it appears to be the most likely path for South Africa to take to become a genuine multiparty democracy.

Breaking news: It appears that Zuma’s corruption trial may be back on, with charges possibly being reinstated today. Zuma has also released his party’s platform for the 2009 election, including a shift to the left on economic policies.