Are voters confused?

2009-04-20 00:00

I have a suspicion that there are more undecided voters just a few days before this general election than there were during the previous three elections since 1994.

The confusion came in with the formation of the Congress of the People late last year. Until then most people knew whether they were going to vote ANC, Democratic Alliance, Independent Democrats or one of the smaller parties.

But after Cope a substantial number of traditional ANC supporters had to decide whether they too were going to abandon the party they and their parents and grandparents had belonged to.

The decision was whether the behaviour of Jacob Zuma and his senior lieutenants, the humiliation of Thabo Mbeki and the antics of leaders like Julius Malema were enough to change their votes to a breakaway group.

But a lot of people who didn’t traditionally vote for the ANC also started having doubts about their vote.

I know a number of people who had previously voted for Patricia de Lille or Bantu Holomisa who are now wondering whether their vote wouldn’t be worth more if it went to Cope, because Cope has a better chance of forming a viable alternative to the ANC one day.

I also know quite a number of people, some of them family members and friends, who voted for the DA in 2004 and 1999, but are now thinking they would prefer to vote for a party with respectable black leadership and substantial black support. The yearning for a truly non-racial party is stronger than most politicians believe.

If my suspicions are correct, then the opinion polls published so far are probably not a very good reflection of real attitudes.

I stuck out my neck at the beginning of the year and predicted that Cope would get around 10% of the vote. According to the latest opinion poll, this figure is now 8,9%.

But this figure could be as high as 16%, I think. This would, among other things, depend on whether the ANC’s manipulation of the prosecuting authority to get Zuma off is seen as scandalous behaviour or as the behaviour of an unbeatable movement.

But it would also depend on whether the doubting DA, ID and UDM supporters decide that Cope was after all the best chance for an effective opposition to ANC abuse and abandon their parties.

Cope’s stance on affirmative action, especially as pronounced by Terror Lekota, is very popular among young whites, but not so among the black middle class, which is Cope’s first constituency.

If these voter decisions go against Cope, they could end up with six or seven percent of the vote.

My sense is that what support the DA may pick up in the Western Cape, mostly “coloured” voters switching from the ANC, they will lose to Cope in the Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

I am fairly sure that the ANC is going to lose substantial support in provinces like the Eastern and Western Cape and even Gauteng, but I’m equally sure they’ll make up for most of that in KwaZulu-Natal, where the IFP is going to get close to being wiped out.

The two big questions as we approach election day are whether the ANC will again get a two-thirds majority, which would mean they could change the Constitution without any other party’s help; and whether Cope or the DA are going to be the next official opposition.

Coming in at number three rather than second could be a big blow to either party’s future prospects — unless, of course, the two parties form some form of strategic coalition, which could even mean that by 2014 they would fight the ANC as one party.

That is going to be fun.

— News 24

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