Small parties not to enter coalitions blindfolded

By Drum Digital
12 August 2016

Amid all the coalition talks happening between political parties, political analysts warn small parties not to enter coalitions blindfolded.

By Aphiwe Boyce

Amid all the coalition talks happening between political parties, political analysts warn small parties not to enter coalitions blindfolded.

With no outright majority in 27 municipalities around the country in the recent elections, political parties are now forced to join forces with some of their rivals in order to govern. Five metros where the ANC and DA were unable to get 50 % or more are among the country’s largest hung municipalities.

In Joburg, the ANC garnered 44,99 % of votes, while the DA managed 38,04 % and the EFF 10,94 %. In Tshwane, the DA won 43,10 %, while the ANC managed 41.48 % and the EFF 11,64 %.

In Ekurhuleni, which is also a hung council, the ANC got 48,84 %, the DA in 34,13 % and the EFF has 11,10 %. If one of the largest parties forms a coalition with any other party, they will agree on who to elect as speaker and executive mayor. It will also determine how many seats each party in the coalition will have on the mayoral committee.

Speaking to DRUM, Wits University School of Governance Professor Susan Booysen says although the smaller parties tend to benefit in the coalitions they need to be careful of being swallowed by the bigger parties.

“Coalitions are good for them as they will be part of decision-making, giving them significant political profile. That will help them to advance the interests of their voters,” Prof. Booysen says.

She also says coalitions will give them access to Government resources.

“But they must not enter coalitions blindfolded. They need to clarify everything before they agree to anything or else they will be swamped by big political parties. They must also be careful, because if their bigger partners in Government are implicated in corruption, they will also be implicated as partners to crime.”

Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni adds that smaller parties tend to benefit in terms of being part of decision-making but he said they also risk the loyalty of their voters. Dr Fikeni says a small party in coalition will have more influence in Government than when the party is standing alone.

“But the party can lose voters because some will feel their votes were sold to a bigger party. The party can also be swallowed by the bigger party in the long term, and in the case of a breakdown in the coalition, the smaller party normally will be the biggest loser.”

Prof. Booysen adds that smaller parties need to protect themselves when they enter a coalition. “They must stick to their ambitions; otherwise, they will lose their identity.”

But UDM leader Bantu Holomisa says: “We will not go into political marriage where we are destined to be swallowed up or serve other political parties’ agenda, but will remain true to our vision and mission as independent parties.”

EFF leader Julius Malema is on record saying he would not enter into coalitions with anyone who would subvert the will of the people. “An African child must benefit from anything else the EFF is going to constitute. Why should we be so desperate?”

He said if they allow the desperation to go on, some people were going to be given money within the EFF.

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