Will loyalty factor decide elections?

Author:Raji, Rafiq
Position:Around Africa: South Africa

On 8 May, South Africans go to the polls to elect members of parliament and other state officials. The polls this time around have added spice, given the dramas involving the ANC, a struggling economy and a more polarised nation. Rafiq Raji assesses the front runners.

While the national and provincial elections in South Africa are typically of great interest, they are even more so this year.

This is because they will be taking place against the backdrop of corruption scandals in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and power cuts by Eskom, the state power utility.

There are 48 political parties participating in the 2019 elections. But the ANC is expected to keep its majority in the National Assembly, and thus determine who emerges as President of the Republic.

According to the amended 1996 constitution, the President of the Republic must be elected in the first sitting of the National Assembly after the elections, on a date set by the chief justice--who will also preside over the election--which must not be more than 30 days after the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent president. The appointee is usually the head of the winning party--in the ANC's case, this would be Cyril Ramaphosa, the incumbent.

The main issues in the 2019 elections relate to jobs, land, corruption, and the provision of basic public services.

Roger Southall, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says "it is the rising cost of living, keeping the lights on [a reference to the frequent power cuts] and as ever, jobs, jobs, jobs" that are uppermost on voters' minds.

Oxford-based Jason Robinson, senior Africa analyst at Oxford Analytica, a consultancy, echoes similar thoughts: "Jobs, the economy, quality of service delivery, crime and education.

He adds: "With the economy stagnating, unemployment still rampant and only a partial recovery in sight, exacerbated by the ongoing operational and management woes at the power utility Eskom, voters want a compelling option come 8 May."

Recent power outages or load-shedding are likely be uppermost in the minds of all voters. At its peak, water taps stopped running as pumps could not work and even traffic lights went dark.

Is what is becoming a chronic lack of service delivery sufficient to sway voter loyalty away from the ruling ANC party, though?

"You bet!" exclaims Prof. Southall of Wits. Oxford Analytica's Robinson thinks so too, but does not see it moving "substantial...

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