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
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.pdf