Election results reshuffle SA

Election results reshuffle SA political landscape despite ANC victory

Despite another landslide victory with more than 62 per cent of the vote, the ANC will likely face its most challenging opposition in parliament yet as SA enters its third decade of democracy

Election results reshuffle SA

German statesman Otto von Bismarck is widely accredited for having said that politics is the art of the possible. If the 19th century leader had known about South African elections, he might have amended that quote to saying that politics is actually the art of the impossible.

There was a lot to be predicted about the elections, of course, such as the ANC’s landslide win and subsequently its guaranteed grasp on power with 62.15 per cent of the vote. No surprises here – despite the fact that there seems to be a downward trend for the ANC, which, if it continues, might likely see the century-year-old political institution fall below 60 per cent in future elections.

But for now, the ANC must celebrate before it comes to the daunting task of building the next government. Much is expected to remain the same here as well, with the ANC party list looking like a who’s-who of South Africa’s political heavyweights, featuring President Jacob Zuma at the top of the pyramid.

What is different, however, are the challenges that Zuma and company will have to face in parliament. With almost two out of five voters not giving their voice to the ANC, a colourful opposition is beginning to emerge, which might turn into as much of a headache within the opposition itself as it is bound to be for the ANC.

A victorious Julius Malema is expected to arrive in parliament and take up 25 seats for his party. That is one MP provided by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) per ten seats to be occupied by the ANC; not a bad result for a first-timer, although analysts predict that the extreme left-wing views of EFF will not lead to much constructive lawmaking. Still, the EFF even has a number of greater victories to celebrate in some of the provincial elections, such as in Limpopo Province, where it managed to come in ahead of the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the main opposition.

However, the real challenge for the ANC will be the threat of a strengthened and growing DA. With more than 22 per cent of the vote, the DA will take up 89 seats in parliament – almost a third more than all other opposition voices put together. The party could potentially have performed better; a botched merger with Agang SA cost both parties credibility points, leading to newcomer Agang gaining merely two seats in parliament, which is likely to be occupied by Agang leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele – plus whoever she chooses to hold her hand. But for the time being, the DA is celebrating while Agang is consoling its supporters, with DA leader Helen Zille ruling out any future merger between the two political parties.

Another sore loser, the Congress of the People (COPE), suffered the heaviest of all set-backs, going from 30 seats in parliament to a mere 3, as other opposition voices appear to have swayed parts of the previous the COPE electorate in their favour. Along with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the National Freedom Party (NFP), the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and a few other small parties they will join a group of single-digit MPs per party as part of Mzansi’s rainbow democracy.

Compared to the 2009 elections, the ANC lost a total of 15 seats while the DA managed to gain 22 and EFF, a newcomer, managed to carve out 25 seats for itself. While this implies a moderate level of voter defection away from the ANC, it does not account fully for the changing dynamics in South African parliamentary politics, proving once and for all that in SA, politics is the art of the impossible.