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More Opinion and Analysis

SA's voter turnout healthy

2014-05-06 07:46
A lot of the analysis about the upcoming elections has focused on turnout and what it means for specific parties. But mixed up in these discussions, including here at News24, is a survey conducted by Pondering Panda that indicates young South Africans are not enthusiastic about voting.

Besides the fact that I would throw a dart at a page of numbers before taking Pondering Panda as fact, it is worth noting that although turnout was down when looking at the 2004 compared to the 1999 election (from 87.92% to 76.73) it rose again in 2009 to 77.3%.
While it is tempting to pooh-pooh just over three quarters of registered voters actually making it to the polls on election day, 77.3% is actually a very respectable number when compared to the rest of the world.

It is true that some countries have turnout in the 90s - Australia, for instance, had a turnout of over 93%, Luxembourg saw 92% - and the 80s. But strike from your complaints countries that mandate voting, including the aforementioned pair, plus Argentina (81.4%), Ecuador (81.09%), Singapore (93.18%) and Uruguay (89.9%).
In fact Brazil, which mandates voting by citizens eligible, had the same turnout in their last general election in 2010 as South Africa in 2009. Looking at previous general and presidential elections, South Africa beats developed nations like the United Kingdom (65.1%), France (71.2%), Finland (67.5%), Spain (68.9%) and Iceland (68.9%).
When it comes to our neighbours, we pip Botswana (76.5%) beat Namibia (67.6%) and are well ahead of Mozambique (44.52%) and Lesotho (50.04%). Zimbabwe's turnout for its last election was reportedly 59.24%.

Many of our peers in the developing world also seem to lag behind South Africa, although we're slightly behind another African country against which comparisons are sometimes drawn, Ghana, which saw 79.43% of voters turn out to elect President John Mahanama in 2012. But we beat out Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malawi, El Salvador, and South Korea.
We could journey through all the countries in the world but the point has been made. There is nothing unhealthy with turnout between 70% and 80%, which happened across the country in the 2009 election, except in Mpumalanga which saw turnout of over 80% (make of that what you will) and Limpopo which saw 69.2% of its eligible residents make their X.
South Africans may have had reason to feel unenthusiastic about our democracy in the past, but, as things stand, the country is still interested in ensuring democracy happens.

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