Friday, May 16, 2014

Is South Africa getting closer to being a two party democracy?

A couple of weeks ago the fifth general election was held in South Africa.    The ANC won again with a very large majority of the votes but their vote was down a bit from 2009 and their lowest percentage of the vote in any of the elections.

At the same time the Democratic Alliance vote rose and their 2014 election results of 22.23% of the vote is the best result for the second place party in any of the South African elections.   Still, there is a huge gap between the ANC and the DA.

The ANC seems to be more like the PRI in Mexico, a party that exists because of the power it has.   The control of power perpetuates the power of the ANC.  There have been members of the ANC not happy with the party and it has lead to some splits but no major ones yet.

In the run up to the 2009 election members of the ANC broke with the party and formed COPE (Congress of the People).  They came out of nowhere to become the #3 party in that election but did not do as well as they had hoped for and the party then underwent major internal fighting leading to them 8th this time.

This pattern repeated itself in 2013 when the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) was formed by an expelled member of the ANC.  They came third in the 2014 election but did not do quite as well as COPE did in 2009.

The ANC has managed to get between 62.15% and 69.69% of the vote in all the elections so far.   No party has really seemed to be the government in waiting with the best second place result in 1999, 2004 and 2009 was 16.66% of the vote.

In the first election in South Africa in 1994 there was a sense that the ANC did have two potential rivals, the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party.  The National Party won the Western Cape province in that election and IFP won a majority in KwaZulu-Natal.    But in the 1999 election the National party lost more of their support and IFP started their long term drop in support  

The 2014 result for the Democratic Alliance is good enough result for them that they are the alternative to the ANC.   They managed to three and a half times as many votes as the third place party the EFF.   This is the largest gap between second and third place South Afirca has seen in an election.

The problem for the Democratic Alliance is that they are seen as too white and too colonial.  It is also likely see as too close to neo conservatism by some.   The break aways from the ANC to date have been from the more radical parts of the party, not people breaking with the party because it is not liberal enough.

The ANC will endure as the government as long as people believe it will remain in power and can help them because of that.  If there is a loss of confidence in the ANC the party could very easily collapse into many different factions.  Even if that were to happen it does not mean the DA would manage to get enough support to become the government in 2019.

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