In DepthColumnsSouth Africa: What the elections mean


Posted on Monday, 25 May 2009 12:27

South Africa: What the elections mean

By Tom Lodge
Gemma Ware


The three biggest parties can all draw some comfort from the election results. The ANC fended off the challenge from some of its former comrades, and opponents are pleased that the ruling party won just less than a two-thirds majority, its total of just below 66% of the poll was down by more than 3% on its 2004 victory. Voter enthusiasm remained high with a 77% turnout.?


The opposition is now more consolidated with the Democratic Alliance (DA – 16.74%), the new Congress of the People (COPE – 7.32%) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP – 4.99%) taking most of the remaining votes. The DA probably drew most of the National Party’s former support, especially among coloured (mixed-race) voters in the Western Cape. It will govern in the Western Cape without needing coalition partners and will have an impressive 67 seats in the National Assembly, but its 21% share of the vote in Gauteng was about the same as it was in 2004.?


For a new party without resources, COPE did not do too badly, with relatively strong support in the Eastern Cape, the Free State and the Northern Cape. But its results were not the seismic shift hoped for by the ANC dissenters who founded the party. Its poor showing in Gauteng (7.78%) suggests COPE failed to dent the ANC’s black middle-class support. The disaffected notables who broke away last year did not take much of the ANC’s branch-level organisation and grassroots support with them. ?


The ANC kept its support among the rural poor and the urban working class. With a million more votes than in 2004, the ANC benefited from the higher turnout, particularly among young first-time voters. The ANC also made big gains in KwaZulu-Natal, nearly doubling the total of its ballots since 2004. Here the gains were chiefly at the expense of the IFP, with the ANC picking up support among rural voters in former IFP strongholds.


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