This could be the most important election since 1994. Here's why

By Gabisile Ngcobo
03 August 2016

The days of ANC domination are over, experts say.

So the politicians' proverbial baby-kissing season is finally over. Today South Africans will go to the polls to decide who they want in charge of their wards and municipalities.

And it's vital you vote, says Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst and founder of research and consulting company Clear Content. The future is in the hands of the people. And, if you don't vote, you don't get to moan if things go wrong.

Here are five things you need to know

1. There may be more coalitions between political parties

At this stage it's likely there could be several coalition governments between the DA and the ANC, particularly in Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. Political parties form coalitions if they don't have a majority of more than 50 percent.

Coalitions rarely make a stable government, Mathekga says, as there are too many contradictory objectives between the parties. Coalitions require compromise from all sides, which rarely happens. "There will be problems," Mathekga says. "I think we're going to be in for tough times."

2. There’s growing awareness of the importance of voting

South Africans are taking more interest in elections, Mathekga says, which is a step in the right direction for our young democracy.

"Holding a government to account is the basic duty of every citizen. If there’s anything each one of us can do it's to make sure the politicians we pay from our taxpayers’ money are efficient, trustworthy and deliver on their promise," says Daniel Silke, a global analyst and the director of the Political Futures Consultancy.

3. The ANC’s majority will be reduced

The days of ANC domination are over, Mathekga says. "For the ruling party to gain more votes than it did in the past would be a miracle. The ANC will be the biggest loser in these elections."

The party will see an incremental loss of support, particularly in urban areas. Leadership issues around President Jacob Zuma, corruption, lack of service delivery and an ailing economy are all reasons for growing disillusionment and anger.

"It is the worst possible time for the ANC to defend their position and I think they'll feel it at the polls," Silke says. Both the EFF and the DA are expected to see moderate growth which will "unsettle" the ANC.

The fact that opposition parties are growing is a good sign for our democracy, Silke adds.  "It makes things more competitive and it's making the ANC nervous. And it's a good thing when the ruling party gets nervous because they'll hopefully govern better to make sure they stay in power."

It's exciting stuff, Silke says. "Opposition parties are making inroads in areas formerly dominated by the ANC – and that's rather thrilling."

4. Election day should be peaceful

There was plenty of violence in the run up to 3 August but security will be beefed up at the polls and things should go relatively smoothly.

There may be isolated incidents of violence, Silke says, but they're unlikely to spoil the day. "I don't think this election will be marred by violence," he says.

5. You have two votes

Voters will be have to make their mark on two ballot papers: one for your local ward councillor and one for the political party you want to govern your district.

The ward councillor you vote for doesn't have to belong to the party you vote for. "You can split your vote although it's highly unlikely many people will," Mathekga says.

Want more info? Here are 10 questions you probably have about voting, answered

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