Cope cometh

2008-12-15 00:00

With the issue of its name resolved for the present, Cope — the Congress of the People — can now move forward to its official launch as a political party. The legalities of the matter aside, Cope must be credited with playing a clever hand. Its name echoes the 1955 Kliptown congress that adopted the Freedom Charter, so important in the history of the African National Congress and the freedom struggle. The choice of December 16 as the launch date also aligns the new party with the history and traditions of the struggle. These things are no accident. Cope is less a new formation than a disaffected offshoot of the ANC. Given the current animosity between parent and offspring, there is some irony in the choice of the Day of Reconciliation for the launch.

As Cope starts to plot its future course, it will doubtless take heart from the results of last week’s municipal by-elections. With the party not yet officially in existence, its candidates stood as independents, and even though lacking the support of formally organised party structures they won more than a third of the 27 contested seats in the Western Cape. With the Democratic Alliance winning nine, the Independent Democrats five, and the ANC only three, these results might indicate a massive swing but that would be a misrepresentation. The ANC’s failure to register candidates for 12 of those seats means that these results cannot be taken as an indicator on the political mood of the nation.

On the other hand, a Markinor survey conducted in October and hence before the ruling party split indicated that some 20% of then ANC supporters would switch their allegiance to a new party. The 2009 general election could well prove a watershed in national politics. The likelihood is that Cope could make significant inroads into the ANC’s support base, bringing its parliamentary representation down below 60 percent. Such a shot across the bows of the ruling party, giving it cause to think and apply its increasingly arrogant mind a bit more carefully to honest and efficient government, can only be good for democracy

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