ANC can’t rest on laurels of black vote

2011-05-14 15:34

In 2009 in Nelson Mandela Bay, the ANC got less than 50% of the vote, suggesting that the party’s loyalty vote might be eroding.

If that had been a municipal election, an opposition coalition could have wrestled control from the ANC, as happened in Cape Town in 2006.

The leadership of the DA, under Helen Zille, is clearly fishing in the ANC’s traditional pond. Its current campaign, which has targeted black townships and ­rural areas, shows a party determined to break the ceiling of less than 2% of black electoral support.

The party’s prominent black leaders like Lindiwe Mazibuko and Wilmot James have been highly visible in the campaign.

The DA currently enjoys 17% of the electoral cake, but its voter base is unlikely to grow significantly if it focuses only on those constituencies that have traditionally propped it up.

In this election the party aims to achieve more than 23% of votes.

If it does, it will be a massive jump from the 14% it got in the 2006 municipal elections, but to do this, it will clearly need to win over black voters.

Cope’s disappointing performance since it was voted into Parliament in 2009 means that a sizeable chunk of the people who voted for the party could go back to the ANC or remain undecided.

This provides fertile ground for the DA to win black voters who are disillusioned with the ruling party, assuming the party’s message is persuasive enough to convince them not to be apathetic.

This is no mean feat, since disaffected voters are more ­likely to stay away from local government polls than they are to vote.

This explains why the average national turnout in the last municipal election was a low 48.4%, compared to 77.3% for the last national and provincial elections.

But there are encouraging signs that people who feel disappointed in their parties might consider switching loyalties.

A recent Human Sciences Research Council study into voter participation behaviour found that 25% of voters said they would vote for another party if they felt disappointed and the party they previously voted for did not meet their expectations.

But worryingly, 19% of voters said they would abstain if they were disappointed, something that will not necessarily ­translate into support for the opposition.

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