IFP’s long decline continues

2014-05-09 00:00

THE IFP suffered a hammer blow in the fifth democratic elections after its traditional support base in KwaZulu-Natal chose to vote for the NFP.

By the time of going to press yesterday, the IFP had garnered 11,7% of votes in KZN, compared to 22,4% obtained in the 2009 elections.

Political analysts yesterday said the talismanic lure of IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was now the only thing preventing the party from fading into obscurity.

The NFP contested the general election for the first time after it broke away from the IFP, but looks set to become the fourth biggest provincial party with 7,92% of the vote.

By yesterday evening the ANC had won 65,4% of the vote while the DA stood at 10,8%.

The new kid on the block, the EFF, was showing an impressive performance at 1,7%, compared to the Minority Front and ACDP, which registered 0,74% and 0,4% respectively.

However, the preliminary results showed that the IFP could still retain its official opposition status despite getting a much smaller percentage of the vote.

This does not change predictions about the party’s future.

The IFP has been steadily declining since 1994, when it entered the elections at the last minute after holding the country to ransom.

The IFP obtained 40,45% of the vote in 1994, 36,82% in 2004 and 22,4% in 2009.

In 2011, former IFP stalwart Zanele Magwaza-Msibi formed her party, the NFP, after a leadership struggle with Buthelezi.

The ANC, which hoped to make inroads into areas that were once considered IFP strongholds, was yesterday confident it would also trounce the IFP in those areas after votes were counted.

“We are confident when the final results are released we will have more votes in the Zululand district,” provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said.

Zikalala said that the results showed that apart from retaining its votes, the ANC had taken votes away from the opposition.

“They took votes from each other,” he said.

The NFP nevertheless yesterday proved the doomsayers and opinion polls wrong. A survey by Ipsos Markinor last week predicted that Magwaza-Msibi’s party would only get two percent of the vote.

Magwaza-Msibi said the good showing by her party was due to aggressive campaigning in all parts of the province and the party’s growth.

However, some party leaders appeared to have expected to do much better and to give the IFP a hiding.

“Whatever the outcome is, there is still a next time,” one leader was overheard as saying at the results centre in Durban.

The IFP meanwhile suffered a crippling blow at the ballot box, with experts saying the party’s performance was expected.

“If you look at the votes of the NFP those are votes that should have gone to the IFP,” University of KZN political science lecturer Zakhele Ndlovu said, adding that the supporters of IFP and NFP came from the same pool of voters who prefer either Magwaza-Msibi or Buthelezi.

Ndlovu said the IFP was to blame for its woes after it let Magwaza-Msibi and Ziba Jiyane form their own parties instead of brokering peace. Jiyane left prior to Mgwaza to form the now defunct Nadeco.

“They [the IFP] are their own worst enemies,” he said.

He said the IFP’s election results would only serve as a consolation for a while. “As long as Prince Buthelezi is there, the party will hang in there, but its support will be on the decline. The question is what will happen if he is no longer there as a leader,” Ndlovu said.

Independent political analyst Protas Madlala said this years’s election results signalled that “the IFP is not going to be the same party it was in 1994”.

Madlala, however, said the IFP had performed very well under the circumstances, as some had already started writing the IFP’s obituary. But Madlala said the IFP’s comeback is temporary, because it relies too much on Buthelezi. He said unlike the ANC, which continued to draw support from voters even when Nelson Mandela was no longer the leader, the same could not be said about the IFP.

“When people voted for the ANC, they did not vote for Mandela. In the case of the IFP, they are loyal to Buthelezi,” Madlala said.

IFP national chairperson Blessed Gwala remained upbeat about their performance as the results still trickled in last night.

“We have made a point that the IFP is here to stay and here forever despite the defections of some members who were hoodwinked,” Gwala said.

Commenting about their overall decline over the years, Gwala said those were down to floor-crossing, the poor coverage in the media of the party’s policy positions and the loss of its leaders and supporters in political violence.

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