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    Voting Trends Twenty Years Into Democracy: Analysis of South Africa's National and Provincial Elections

    May 2014 Election Results: The Meaning

    Albeit routine in a democratic society, an election is more than just a ritual. It provides insight into the state of the constitutive elements of democracy. Election results yield more meaning that the mere numbers suggest. And, making sense of the results also requires a rigorous methodology. This entails zooming in on specific variables and seeing how they play out at a micro-level, among the various communities.

    A micro-level analysis gives substance to what is often-time described as national trends. Our study focused on four metros that exhibited discernible electoral trends – NMB, City of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane – and the analysis is based on results drawn from voting station and municipal levels across villages, townships and suburbs.   

    Equally important in undertaking an electoral analysis is a comparative perspective. One electoral cycle yields minimal analytical value, unless compared to previous cycles. In this way one is able to discern whether the status quo represents a decline, vibrancy or even stagnation of our democratic society. In examining the meaning of the recent elections, therefore, MISTRA took a twenty year perspective. 

    The analysis probed, among others, the following variables:

    ·       Ideological trends

    ·       Electoral participation

    ·       Race

    ·       Income/Class status

    ·       Rural/Urban Divide

    ·       Local community protests.

    The election data reveals quite an instructive analysis on each variable. For instance:

    Ø  On Ideological Trends: Policies that embrace state intervention and welfare measures resonate more with the electorate. Even parties that previously embraced neo-/liberal economic approaches, have had to shift left-wards somewhat on some policy issues in order to find electoral resonance.

    Ø  On Electoral Participation: After the 20 years of democracy, electoral participation remains amongst the highest in the world.

    Ø  On Race: Electoral preference of some racial groups, especially urban-based Coloured and Indian voters, is shifting away from the African National Congress to the Democratic Alliance; whilst the latter remains an overwhelming favourite amongst white voters.

    Ø  On Rural/Urban Divide: There’s a discernible difference in the electoral choices of the rural folk and urban-based voters. And, this cuts across race. The ANC, for instance, regained support amongst rural voters in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, and also performed well among Coloured voters in the Northern Cape.

    Ø  On Income/Class Status: In most of the Metros, at least, there was discernible pre-occupation among the ‘black middle class’ with issues other than service delivery, including corruption and the Gauteng e-tolls. Further, whilst predominantly popular amongst the poor and the working class, especially in informal settlements, the Economic Freedom Fighters has also attracted noticeable support from predominantly black middle-class communities across provinces. This is evident in neighbourhoods like, for instance, Leondale in Johannesburg, and KwaMagxaki in Port Elizabeth.

    Ø  On Local Community (‘service delivery’) Protests: Outbreak of (violent) protests doesn’t suggest a rejection of the incumbent, or a loss of trust in the efficacy of the democratic system. Turn-out was relatively impressive in most areas affected by such protests and the incumbent received similarly healthy levels of support.          

    Based on these findings, the analysis reaches certain conclusions. And, these relate to race relations and social cohesion, the scope and depth of transformation, and the content of public policy and allocation of resources.   

     Download PDF of Voting Trends Twenty Years Into Democracy: Analysis of South Africa's National and Provincial Elections: MISTRA ELECTION REPORT 2014.pdfMISTRA ELECTION REPORT 2014.pdf


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