ANC support won't grow, but DA has the biggest problem

2019-04-30 06:55
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA  FEBRUARY 23: (SOUTH AF
(Gallo Images)

If the DA fails to grow, the party will gradually lose its place around the table as a serious opposition party; the EFF will elbow them out, writes Ralph Mathekga.

Whilst I do not want to go into the business of predicting election results, it is enticing to consider a few scenarios that might play out in the May 8 election.

It is interesting to consider what it would mean to the EFF if the DA failed to grow significantly in the elections; will the EFF intensify its attitude of behaving as if it is the biggest opposition party despite having fewer votes than the DA? How will the ANC carry itself if the party comes out of the election with over 60% of electoral support? Will the EFF still enjoy a monopoly of leftist politics even after the formation of Numsa's Socialist Workers' Party.

Elections are interesting not only because of who wins and who comes last, but also because of how big the margin of victory is. The ANC will most likely win the national election. What is important however is the strength (or weakness) of the majority that it will attain.

For the ANC to retain 60% of the votes, it would mean that President Cyril Ramaphosa managed to convince the nation that all that went wrong on the ANC's watch in the last few years can been forgiven and the party can start afresh. This would mean that the ANC attains a nearly unshakable approval from voters. As far as I can see, it is highly unlikely that voters will give the ANC a strong mandate.

I am of the view that the ANC will most likely be reduced to below 60%. It is important to note that generally, the party's electoral majority has overo the years been reduced by an average of 3% per election. This means that if the ANC came out of May 8 election with about 58% of the votes, that would still count as a good performance by the party whose recent transgressions in government justify the wider anger of the electorate. Therefore, it would be very odd for the ANC to retain 60% of the votes. It would mean that the party had retained its electoral support.

When it comes to the performance of the two major opposition parties in the forthcoming elections, the story is even more interesting. It is not necessarily a disaster for the DA if the party fails to show significant electoral growth come May 8. The problem for the DA starts only if the EFF grows significantly.

The EFF has been making so much noise in our politics that many may even think it is the second biggest party in the country. The EFF is very clear; they will behave as if they are bigger than the DA until such day that the party becomes bigger than the DA.

DA under pressure from EFF

The greatest pressure for the DA to grow in this election is therefore generated by the growth of the EFF rather than any pressure that might come from the ANC's performance. The ANC does not exert electoral pressure on the DA; rather it is Ramaphosa who exerts pressure on the DA.

In a nutshell, the DA is the party that faces an enormous challenge to show significant growth in the upcoming elections. If the DA fails to grow, the party will gradually lose its place around the table as a serious opposition party; the EFF will elbow them out.

EFF won't sail through

But the EFF is not going to sail its way through the elections; there are some minor challenges the party will be confronted with. Firstly, let me put it out there that the EFF will now try to bridge the 10% mark. This is significant in the sense that no opposition party (except the DA and the National Party) has been able to attain more than 10%.

The challenge for the EFF is that several parties have emerged that intend to establish themselves in the same camp as the EFF. Political parties such as the Socialist Workers' Party operate on the same turf as the EFF, targeting those who are disillusioned with the current system or market economy. The EFF will have to compete with those parties.

The elections will redefine how opposition parties are positioned towards each other and towards the governing party. The margin that each of the major parties will attain will determine how they subsequently relate to each other in processing policy. The face of opposition politics might also get a makeover as the relationship between the DA and the EFF undergoes changes in line with what voters are saying about those parties.

When it comes to shifts in political support among major political parties, there might be marginals changes. These changes in terms of voter support across major political parties may however usher in major changes and reshape opposition politics in the country and how policy tensions are resolved in the country. 

- Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.

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