Sunday, May 11, 2014

South Africa: Democracy and the decline of the ANC

Some interesting details about the South African electoral process since the end of official Apartheid. There is a similarity with the US as the millions that have opted out of the electoral process, disgusted with what's on offer, are practically ignored as are the states where either one of the parties has a clear majority.  Efforts are directed at the areas which are questionable.  Regardless of the voter, the object is monoplozing the political process, a competition between which section of the capitalist class can govern and plunder society for the following four years.

  The real story of South Africa’s national elections

  Dale T. McKinley

  Originally published by the South African Civil Society Information Service

  Dale T. McKinley - The official version of South Africa's election result, in many cases mirrored by the media, is one in which there is a "high voter turnout" and where the ANC victory is presented as indicative of support from the "majority of voters". And so it is that the almost 13 million people who decided not to participate in the 2014 elections (whether registered or not) are effectively airbrushed from the picture, while the 11,5 million who voted for the ANC become "the people". Stalin would be smiling approvingly.  

No sooner had the final results of the recently concluded 2014 national elections been announced than President Zuma gave a predictably self-congratulatory speech lauding the result as “the will of all the people”. The reality however is that the ANC’s victory came from a distinct minority of “the people”. The real ‘winner’, as has been the case since the 2004 elections, was the stay away ‘vote’.

Since South Africa’s first-ever democratic elections in 1994, the hard facts are that there has been a directly proportionate relationship between the overall decline in support for the ANC and the rise of the stay away ‘vote’. A quick look at the relevant percentages/numbers from each election confirms the reality.

1994: Of the 23 063 910 eligible voters, 85, 53 percent (19 726 610) voted while the remaining 14, 47 percent (3 337 300) stayed away. The ANC received support from 53, 01 percent (12 237 655) of the eligible voting population. 

1999: Of the 25 411 573 eligible voters, 62, 87 percent (15 977 142) voted while the remaining 37, 13 percent (9 434 431) stayed away. The ANC received support from 41, 72 percent (10 601 330) of the eligible voting population.

2004: Of the 27 994 712 eligible voters, 55, 77 percent (15 612 671) voted while the remaining 44, 23 percent (12 382 041) stayed away. The ANC received support from 38, 87 percent (10 880 917) of the eligible voting population.

2009: Of the 30 224 145 eligible voters, 59, 29 percent (17 919 966) voted while the remaining 40, 71 percent (12 304 179) stayed away. The ANC received support from 38, 55 percent (11 650 748) of the eligible voting population.

2014: Of the 31 434 035 eligible voters, 59, 34 percent (18 654 457) voted while the remaining 40, 66 percent (12 779 578) stayed away. The ANC received support from 36, 39 percent (11 436 921) of the eligible voting population.

It is quite an amazing ‘storyline’ with two key tropes. At the same time that South Africa’s eligible voting population - based on estimates of successive census’s -  has increased by 8,4 million in twenty years of democracy,  the amount of that population which has chosen not to vote has increased by 9,4 million. Simultaneously, electoral support for the ANC, as a percentage of that voting population, has declined precipitously from 53 to 36 percent.  

One of the main reasons why this ‘story’ is most often buried in the margins of our political and electoral conversations and consciousness is that the official version conveniently ignores primarily those citizens (a majority of whom are young people between the ages of 18-20) who have not registered to vote and secondarily, those who have registered but chosen not to vote. It is similar to the politically-inspired and artificially constructed distinction between the ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ unemployment rate which has the effect of erasing millions from the officially recognised ranks of the unemployed.

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