Election Preview: South Africa 2009

South Africa will vote in the fifth election since the end of Apartheid on Wednesday, April 22. South Africa’s lower house, the National Assembly, has 400 seats, elected by no-threshold proportional representation. Since the end of Apartheid and the first multi-racial elections in 1994, South Africa, which is now 80% black, is ruled by the African National Congress (ANC), a broad left-wing anti-Apartheid black (Bantu) party that includes, among others, Nelson Mandela. Mandela stepped down in 1999, and his dauphin, Thabo Mbeki won the 1999 and 2004 elections with the usual landslides. In 2007, Mbeki, also ANC leader, was defeated by his rival and left-wing populist Jacob Zuma, a Zulu. Mbeki stepped down as President in 2008 and Kgalema Motlanthe, reputed to be a non-partisan guy in the ANC, took over, since Zuma isn’t an MP and can’t be President just yet.

The opposition to the ANC is just as ethnic based. In 1994, the National Party, the Afrikaner Apartheid party formed the opposition, but the NP (later New National Party, NNP) gradually became irrelevant, winning 1.7% in 2004. Since then, the NNP died out when it officially merged into the ANC, ironically. Since 1999 the opposition is formed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the heir of the (small, but gradually stronger) white liberal, progressive anti-Apartheid parties during the Apartheid era. The DA’s voter base remains heavily white (9%) and coloured. Coloureds can mean a variety of people. There are some mixed race, but also a lot of Khoisan (non-Bantu blacks from western South Africa, the original inhabitants of the region). Coloureds and whites speak most Afrikaans, though around 30 to 40% of whites speak English. The other opposition is the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the Zulu party. Because of straight PR, there are a number of smaller parties, around 8-9 won seats in 2004. These parties range from anti-corruption people (UDM and Independent Democrats), Indian parties (Minority Front), Christian right (ACDP, UCDP), pan-Africanists (PAC), Muslims (AMP), and racist white Afrikaners (VF+, the heirs of the Apartheid Conservatives, which found that the NP was not racist enough).

Here are the results of the 2004 election:

ANC 69.69% (+3.34%) winning 279 seats (+13)
DA 12.37% (+2.81%) winning 50 seats (+12)
IFP 6.97% (-1.61%) winning 28 seats (-6)
UDM 2.28% (-1.14%) winning 9 seats (-5)
Independent Democrats 1.7% (new) winning 7 seats (new)
NNP 1.65% (-5.22%) winning 7 seats (-21)
ACDP 1.6% (+0.17%) winning 7 seats (+1)
Freedom Front+ 0.89% (-0.2%) winning 4 seats (nc)
UCDP 0.75% (-0.03%) winning 4 seats (nc)
Pan-Africanist Congress 0.73% (+0.02%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Minority Front 0.35% (+0.05%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Azanian People’s Organization 0.25% (+0.08%) winning 1 seat (nc)

Since 2004, a number of interesting events have taken place. First of all, Jacob Zuma’s election in 2007. Zuma is a left-wing populist who is very popular amongst Zulus (he’s a Zulu) and also a lot of the ANC base. Zuma seems much closer to them than Mbeki did. Zuma is from the party’s left-wing and is close to trade unions (COSATU) but also the Communist Party (SACP). However, Zuma is a crook, even though charges were recently dropped. He’s also accused of raping a girl. All charming stuff.

Not too happy by this, a bunch of Mbeki supporters, led by Mosiuoa Lekota founded the Congress of the People (COPE). Despite taking on the mantle of good government, the COPE is actually the most corrupt hacks of the ANC that lost out in a power struggle. Ideologically, if it does have an ideology, COPE is probably more right-wing than the ANC. Its electoral base will probably be the most well-off/middle-class blacks of South Africa. COPE performed well in by-elections in late 2008, but its early fire seems to have been dimmed a bit lately. Neither COPE nor the DA, due mostly to these parties’ ethnic bases, stand a chance against the ANC, which will probably win a landslide again, albeit not the 70% it got in 2004 (closer to the 63% it got in 1994).

I’m not sure how good polls are in South Africa, but this is a reasonable poll.

ANC 61%
DA 16%
COPE 15%
IFP and Others 8%

The IFP will lose lots of ground this election, and a lot of ground in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial elections. This is due largely to the fact that Zuma is Zulu. On the topic of provincial elections, the ANC is only in danger in Western Cape, where polls show that it is very likely that the DA will win the province.


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Posted on April 21, 2009, in Election Preview, South Africa. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. it is time for change in south africa!!!

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