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The ruling African National Congress (ANC) led by Jacob Zuma is facing a strong challenge in the May 7 national and provincial elections as it battles allegations of “tenderpreneurship”, that is tenders awarded to party insiders, and corruption, especially about the so-called multi-million rand security upgrades to Zuma’s rural home at Nkandla, in Kwazulu Natal (KZN), where he will cast his vote.
A record 25.3 million South Africans are registered to vote. Each voter will have two ballots, one for the national legislature and one for the provincial legislature, so a voter can choose to vote for two different parties.
South Africa uses a proportional representation voting system, so each vote has equal weight. In practical terms, that means that a party needs to get just under 38 000 votes on a 60% voter turnout, to be allocated a seat in the 400 member Parliament.
Voters choose a party, not a person, and the party selects who will go to the legislatures to represent it. The executive president is chosen by Parliament, which means that effectively it is the leader of the majority party.
Elections are held every five years and in the last election the ANC lost 15 seats to fall below its 1999 total as it gained 264 seats compared with the peak of 279, when the party was led by Thabo Mbeki.
The official opposition is the Democratic Alliance (DA), which gained 17 seats to 67 seats in the 2009 election. The ruling party under a racially exclusive Constitution was the National Party (NP), which in the first inclusive elections in 1994 received enough votes to give them 82 seats, when the DA only managed 7 seats.
The largely Zulu ethnic party, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), secured 43 seats in the first Parliament. President Nelson Mandela then formed a Government of National Unity and the NP and IFP were part of the cabinet.
The other main parties that are contending the 2014 elections are the Congress of the People (COPE), which is led by former ANC members and had 30 seats in the 2009 elections, as well as two new parties.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are led by Julius Malema, who was a former leader of the ANC Youth League, while Agang South Africa is led by Mamphela Ramphele, who is an educationist and partner of killed-in-detention Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko.
In a media briefing on Monday 5 May, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) elections analyst Jonathan Faull said voter turnout was critical. He used the analogy of a birthday party to illustrate this. If 20 (the registered voters) are invited and all turn up, then the cake is divided by 20. However if only ten arrive, then the cake is divided by ten. So hypothetically, if you have 15 members of one party, but only five arrive, while all five members of the other party arrive, then the cake will be shared equally, rather than the three-quarters to one quarter indicated by membership.
“In general, high turnout nationally is good for the ANC, and low turnout better for the DA. In the context of the national election, high and ascendant ANC turnout in KZN could prove to be critical for the ANC due to its role in offsetting ANC losses in other provinces,” he said.
The Western Cape is the only province governed by the DA, while the other eight provinces are governed by the ANC. Faull said Gauteng, the smallest province in terms of size, but the largest in terms of economic contribution and population, would be a key political battleground.
“There will be a shift in Gauteng voting patterns from those established in previous elections. The ANC could lose a significant share of the 64% it won in 2009, but is unlikely to fall below 50%. There is a constituency within the ANC vote in Gauteng – to generalize, historically poor and urban – who are frustrated with the pace of change and what they perceive to be a self-interested ruling elite. It is this particular subset of the ANC vote that may switch voting allegiances in 2014, making the province a potentially rich hunting ground for the DA and the EFF,” he noted.
“The Western Cape will be won by the DA, which is likely to return to power with a more powerful majority. The story in the Western Cape is one of ANC decline and DA ascendency. The DA has run a good campaign on the merits of its record, while the ANC has run an uninspired campaign that has been hamstrung by factional infighting,” he added.
The latest IPSOS survey showed the ANC with 63.4% of the national vote (on a moderate turnout), down from the 65.9% it won in 2009, with little apparent impact from the Nkandla scandal.
The opposition Democratic Alliance is likely to get 22.9% and the Economic Freedom Fighters 4.7% of the vote.
Faull warned that the EFF could underperform, as it depended on its ability to get its potential voters to the polling booths because its anti-capitalism election manifesto meant that large companies were not funding it.
“There is a strong possibility that the EFF will underperform relative to its showing in opinion polls. The new party will have been squeezed hard by both the ANC and DA in the last days of the campaign. As the party attempts to get out their vote, it will rely on comparatively under-resourced and inexperienced party structures and volunteers. The EFF must battle against complacency and losing voters to apathy, particularly given the young profile of its voters,” he concluded.
Polling booths will open at 7 in the morning and close at 9 in the evening on May 7. First results are expected around midnight on May 7 with final results during the evening of May 8.
Helmo Preuss in Pretoria, South Africa for The BRICS Post