2009 elections analysis

As an election junkie, I’ve been watching the election results closely as they come in. There’ve been no real surprises, but a few interesting trends. I’m writing this post as the results are only partially in, but the trends seem clear. It’s likely that the parties with substantial rural support, such as the ANC and IFP, will do better than the results indicate so far, but I’ve tried to factor this in.

ANC losing support
The ANC will probably get its two-thirds majority, but the results mask a real drop in support for them. The ANC did phenomenally well in Kwazulu-Natal, at the expense of the IFP. With Zuma highly-popular in the province, the ANC being able to campaign in IFP strongholds for the first time, as well as the ANC having governed the province for the first time since 2004, and showing a better track record on delivery than the IFP, they did very well.

However, in every other province, the ANC seems to have lost support.

Their loss of support was most noticeable in the Western Cape, with the DA and COPE both picking up sizeable gains. But they also lost sizeable support in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, although perhaps their support in the Eastern Cape was stronger than expected with COPE having claimed it as a stronghold.

DA gaining at the expense of smaller parties
Most noticeable was the abysmal performance of most of the parties formed through floor-crossing. NADECO, who split from the IFP, the UIF, who split from the UDM, the Alliance of Free Democrats, and the Pan-Africanist Movement, who split from the PAC, were all wiped out. With the floor-crossing legislation finally a thing of the past, we should see less of these tiny splinter parties crowding the scene and fighting over the crumbs. In most instances, they owe their existence entirely to individual dissatisfaction and personal conflict rather than any kind of real policy differences.

The DA has been markedly successful in consolidating the splinter vote. The ID, the ACDP, the FF+, all lost votes, probably to the DA. The PAC and the UCDP lost votes. Of the 12 parties who won seats in the 2004 election, 11 have lost support, with only the DA gaining votes, as well as of course the new party, COPE. Considering that a quarter of a million votes from the now-defunct NNP were up for grabs, it’s quite a remarkable achievement for 11 out of 12 parties to lose support, and the ID in particular must be very disappointed, since they’ve in the past picked up NNP support.

UDM, ID and COPE – Second election syndrome
The ID suffered from a noticeable second election syndrome. The UDM formed with great hype in 1999, aiming to become a truly non-racial opposition, only to lose support in 2004, and suffer even more in 2009. They’ve dropped from second to fourth in their “stronghold”, the Eastern Cape, and nationally their support has halved. They’re probably a prime candidate for a merger with COPE, or else it seems they can only look forward to a slow demise.

The ID started with similar aims, and has also suffered a drop the second time around. Nationally they’ve probably fallen from fifth to sixth, and have lost about a third of their support. In the Western Cape they fared slightly better, and remain the fourth largest party, and may be involved in a coalition government in the province. However, with all the extra resources at their disposal the second time around, the drop in support must be devastating, and this must cast their future as an independent party into question.

COPE is in the same position, trying to take on the mantle of a feasible non-racial opposition, and they’ve done relatively well – certainly better than the UDM or the ID did in their first attempts. The real test will be whether they can move forward from here, or whether the momentum will fade along with their predictions of ruling the Eastern Cape, and becoming official opposition.

Religious parties
The drop in support for the ACDP is also interesting. They’ve gained support in every election since 1994, but their drop this time around could perhaps be attributed to Zuma’s church-friendly statements and appearances, and perhaps the presence of a certain Reverend Boesak in COPE’s ranks. The other tiny religious parties, such as the CDA, the AMP and Al-Jamah-ah, all did even worse, failing to gain a presence.

Policy differences
I wonder how many ANC, DA and COPE supporters can actually point to a single policy difference between their parties. Most of the campaigning has been about personalities, and most voters would probably feel quite comfortable discussing the supposed personalities, trustworthiness and effectiveness of Zuma, Zille, Boesak, Dandala, Lekota, de Lille. But as for policies, who cares?

The beauty contest is over for another 5 years. The sexiest politician has won by a landslide. The IEC website can stand up again, and the media companies can look forward to reduced newspaper sales, and less visits to their websites.

Until next time.

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1 comment

  1. Most of the campaigning has been about personalities

    Exactly, especially the “Stop Zuma” posters I saw on the way to the polls. I had hoped that the DA had learnt some lessons from the “Fight back” campaign of 1999, but it seems that they haven’t.

    But I doubt it was Boesak who took votes from the ACDP. Dandala, maybe, but not Boesak. If I’d been in the Western Cape I’d have voted ID instead of Cope, because of Boesak.

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