Coalition Chronicles: The UDM must position itself as kingmakers for the 2019 elections

2017-05-31 12:55

There are several scenarios concerning the outcome of the 2019 elections.The possibility of the ANC falling below the 50% margin in the 2019 has become a common narrative in our political discourse. The ANC’s 2016 local government election performance and the loss of the three major metropolitan areas; President Zuma’s dismal approval (or rather disapproval) ratings (at 62%); the ANC inability to act on corruption and poor service delivery and the prospect of Nkosi Dlamani-Zuma leading the party from December 2017, may steer the oldest liberation movement on the African continent towards losing elections. However, the age-old truism, ‘a week is long time in politics.’ It is therefore naïve to create a forgone conclusion. Lets for a moment accept this premise of an ANC loss in 2019. There may be several outcomes in relation to possible coalitions and co-operations come 2019.

Some  (an inexhaustible) scenarios are:

1.  The ANC wins.

2. DA and EFF together win enough to votes to form a coalition government.

3. DA together with several other parties have enough votes to form a coalition government.

4. The ANC together other smaller parties most likely the IFP and AIC forms a coalition government.

5. The DA forms a a coalition government with the UDM.

For the sake of brevity and focus, I will not separately engage the listed scenarios. Instead, I will pay attention on the latter; a possible UDM coalition government with the DA.

The election results of the UDM since its inception has not been impressive. They recorded their highest percentage in 1999, only gathering 3.4 % of the vote. At the most recent elections, they only managed to win 1%. Currently, they are the sixth most popular party. Furthermore, the party fared worse at provincial level, only winning 6.2% of the vote in Eastern Cape. The UDM were not even able to gain a percent in the other provinces.

They had a poor showing in the recent local government elections as well. However, there is one positive outcome for them; a coalition with the DA in one of the major municipalities.  The marriage between the DA and UDM is relatively volatile.

If politics were purely about numbers and the DA and EFF managed to gain 50% of the vote it would make sense for them to be in coalition. If this were to happen, Mmusi Maimane (if he contests and wins at the next DA’s national congress) would become president and Julius Malema, his deputy president. Maimane has already indicated that he is willing to form a coalition in 2019. On the converse, if we are to use the local government elections as precedent, then one may assume that the EFF would rather enter a cooperation as opposed to a coalition with the DA. The EFF voted for the DA vis-à-vis the mayoral, deputy mayor and speaker positions in the local councils. The UDM managed to enter a coalition through this means, despite the low percentage. History may repeat itself in 2019 again.

Based purely on this argument the UDM would not need a miraculous rise. Of course, ‘a week is a long time in politics’ and the EFF may change their tactics and strategy. One also needs to consider the other parties will also need to vote for the DA/UDM if needs be. The ANC may also just win an outright majority.

Three reasons why  the DA and UDM coalition  makes sense:

1.The DA and UDM are currently in coalition. Hopefully by 2019, their marriage would have steadied.

2.They have similar ideological underpinnings.

3.The UDM’s stronghold is in the Eastern Cape, a province the DA is eying in 2019.

The Holomisa Factor

General Bantu Holomisa is arguably the most astute political figure in the country. He is respected by most politicians. In addition, he has a good reputation with the South African people. I am yet to hear of any negative and damaging allegation against him concerning his political and personal life. Holomisa is one of the longest serving politicians in the National Assembly. He would make a great deputy president, or speaker of the National Assembly.

In recent times, he has dominated the political discourse and media. His party in the NA, led by him took the speaker to court requesting for a secret ballot vote. He comes across as unifying and leading figure among party leaders in the fight to unseat President Zuma. Holimisa is the longest and only president of the party and without a doubt the key factor in the UDM.

The party however sits with a double-edged sword. The UDM brand is built around Holomisa. The closest figure on a national scale is NMBM Deputy Mayor, Mongameli. Monagameli only rose to national prominence since his induction as deputy mayor. The party may disintegrate if Holomisa leaves.

Four strategies the party needs to adopt if it wishes to be  a real key maker  contender in 2019:

1.Build on the Holomisa Brand

2.Negotiate with other smaller parties to form one party

3.Speak about being a kingmaker

4.Broaden its foot soldier base

1. Build on the Holomisa Brand

As I have already mentioned, Holomisa brand is spectacular. The party strategists will need to use Holomisa’s brand as a springboard. The brand represents integrity, leadership and unifier among other things.

2. Negotiate with other smaller parties to form one party

There is an untapped gap and market in South African politics. The ANC, DA and EFF all have unique brands, and support bases. Many South Africans are considering alternative outside of that. It would be in the interest of the UDM to unite and even amalgamate with political parties, closely linked to its ideology.

3. Speak about being a kingmaker

Beyond just positioning itself for the kingmaker role, it needs to start vocalising that it intends of being a kingmaker in 2019. The leading political parties strategically uses language or slogan to bring across their indented political ambitions. South Africans desire certainty and a clear message.

4. Broaden its foot soldier base

As mentioned, the party needs to move away from the purely being perceived as Bantu Holomisa’s party. People win people.

The following two years will be crucial for the UDM, if they wish to remain relevant in the South African Political discourse. They will need to adopt a new strategy; the kingmaker strategy.

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