Back to the Future Election.

The last time the Creator contemplated the coming election it seemed that the ANC was going to grit its teeth and buckle down. Since then, the Zuma gang have smashed the whole china shop. However, the fact that they are standing knee-deep in shards, mooing loudly, does not necessarily mean that nobody is going to vote for their bull. Come, let us reason together.

And, to reason properly, let us have a Table, for who can reason without a Table?

Party Percentage of vote in 2004 Constituency
ANC 69% Africans of all classes, middle-class urban coloureds and indians, working-class rural coloureds and indians.
DA 10% Whites, working-class urban coloureds and indians, everyone who hates the ANC, most rich people.
IFP 6% Zulu nationalists
UDM 2% Africans who miss the homeland system.
FF+ 1% White afrikaners who miss apartheid.

It’s immediately obvious that this is a stable situation. The ANC has a broad base and the other parties have narrow bases. The ANC has some capacity to make inroads into the other parties’ constituencies whereas the other parties have very limited capacity to do the same. This is, basically, why the ANC has grown by 9% since 1994.

But hold! Policies do count. In other countries policies don’t count because all parties have essentially the same policies. In South Africa there are a few differences. Let us see what they are:

Party Percentage of vote in 2004 Professed ideology
ANC 69% 60% social democracy, 30% neoliberalism, 10% black consciousness.
DA 10% 60% neoliberalism, 40% white supremacy
IFP 6% 50% neoliberalism, 40% Zulu supremacy, 10% black consciousness.
UDM 2% 100% humbug
FF+ 1% 90% white supremacy, 10% social democracy.

This table, subjective as it is, suggests some important issues. The FF+ has no prospect of growing and will probably gradually fold into the DA. The UDM and IFP have no prospect of growing and will probably gradually fold into the ANC. This means that, even more than appeared to be the case in the previous table, the ANC looks like a winner; it has the potential to win over 8% of the voters while the DA has only 1% to win over. (Actually this is not quite true because there are a number of tiny parties like the ID and the ACDP which the DA will eventually take over when they have served their purpose.)

The big issue is that very, very few ANC voters will go over to any of the other parties. They simply have no reason to. The fact is that while the ANC has neoliberal elements to it, very few will vote for it because of this. If you are a neoliberal, chances are you will support the DA. And, if you are a social democrat, you have no reason to vote for any other party. Hence this keeps electoral support stable.

Of course, people may distrust the ANC’s leadership — in other words, may doubt that their professed ideology is real. But it would take a very big degree of distrust to drive people into other parties. This is why the ANC’s support went up between 1999 and 2004 — admittedly, after 2002 the ANC softpedalled neoliberalism. There is also, often, a big disjunct between what people say and the way they vote, simply because the press and various political leaders attack the ANC for its neoliberalism and many people will heartily agree with this and then go off and vote for the ANC again. Most people can recognise the difference between partly neoliberal and wholly neoliberal parties and policies, even if from a Trotskyite point of view there is no difference — except that Trotskyites usually prefer the wholly neoliberals, on the basis of “the worse, the better”. But the rest of us don’t spend all our time on campus and living in the real world is a powerful antidote to Trotskyism.

But what happens when you don’t know, or trust, the leaders of the ANC? Let’s have another table and see:

Party Percentage of vote in 2009

(with plausible leaders)

Percentage of vote in 2009

(with Zuma leadership)

ANC 71% 65%
DA 11% 13%
IFP 5% 5%
UDM 1% 2%
FF+ 1% 1%

The assumption here is that the ANC’s share would go up with plausible leadership, but would go down with dubious leadership — but only to a limited extent. After all, Zuma could be a fluke, or his promises might come true after all. Because people would stay away from the polls the DA’s share would go up (and also with bad ANC leadership the DA would have good grounds for getting the vote out). The IFP would not benefit (Zuma is a Zulu nationalist who has good relations with many of their leaders) but might stay the same because of low turnouts. The UDM would probably benefit from low turnouts and a degree of protest voting. The FF+ is hopeless.

Note that this is not a big change, and this is roughly what the Creator predicted. But now the ANC has been driven into a split. The question is, how far will it split? The new party, the Congress of the People, is often called a “splinter” party, which suggests that it is pretty insignificant, like the UDM. However, the CoPe has a lot more leaders than the UDM, and is represented in a lot more provinces, and has a surprisingly large amount of money coming from somewhere — also, despite being rather inept in some ways, it has fairly dynamic and high-profile leaders. Hence it is automatically several times as significant as the UDM. Three times would put it at 6%. Five times would put it at 10%. The party is talking about winning the Eastern Cape, Free State, North-West and Limpopo, which constitutes about half the ANC’s support-base and this puts it at 30%. Which of these seem most plausible?

The probable answer is in between the extremes. CoPe is essentially identical to the ANC in its professed ideology and its target constituency. Perhaps the CoPe hopes to make inroads into the DA’s support base, or at least to hijack some of the supporters from other parties who might otherwise have moved into the DA — CoPe is less unattractively reactionary than the DA. On the other hand, with the exception of Phillip Dexter, CoPe has no visceral leftists in its ranks (Shilowa is no longer an obvious leftist, despite his trade union background). It could thus be hampered by its lack of social-democratic credentials — though it is very probable that the Zuma faction have already overplayed their hand in propaganda terms around this issue; nobody can see any of Zuma’s acolytes as left-wing anti-capitalists.

How disgruntled is the ANC membership? We know that Mbeki had a 40% support-base at Polokwane, but election-rigging and sheer confusion means that this probably underestimates the actual anti-Zuma base. If this 40% were the CoPe’s resource, then that would translate to at least 27% of the total vote, putting the ANC itself down to 42%. However, conference delegates are not the same as voters; it is likely that the average voter was less upset about Polokwane than the delegates were.

On the other hand, the average voter is undeniably peeved with the ANC. If it is true, as some claim, that virtually all the provincial elections this year have been rigged to install Zuma supporters, then this would build an even stronger potential base for CoPe. It is certainly true that since Polokwane the ANC has done nearly nothing to win the public’s trust — and their passivity, incoherence and lack of direction since Zuma and Motlanthe seized power has not helped either. The bullying, bluster and occasional thuggery which we have seen will undoubtedly upset those voters who are not blind Zuma supporters (and there are much fewer of those than there are blind Zuma supporters among the political elite, simply because the political elite is easily bribed).

A guess: if the ANC continues to blunder along with its present incompetence, and if the CoPe are able to present a manifesto with a reasonable amount of left-wing content (a simple Keynesian platform of doubling spending on housing and public works, and setting up a state development corporation to channel that money into labour-intensive activity, would probably be enough and would present the CoPe as more concerned about the economic crisis than the ANC is) — then the CoPe might be able to push 30%. The Creator cannot imagine that they would do better than that. If the ANC gets its act together, outflanks the CoPe from the left and stops bullshitting so much, it might be able to hold the CoPe below 10%. Hence, maybe, a plausible figure would be 15% for the CoPe. Let’s put that in tabular form again (leaving out the decided possibility that the CoPe will fail altogether and get under 5%) and see what happens:

Party Smart ANC, dumb CoPe Average ANC, average CoPe Dumb ANC, smart CoPe
ANC 58% 53% 39%
CoPe 9% 15% 30%
DA 12% 11% 11%
IFP 4% 4% 3%
UDM 2% 1% 1%
FF+ 1% 1% 1%

(This assumes that the IFP might be vulnerable to a serious CoPe campaign, but omits the possibility that the ID’s voters might defect to the CoPe en masse.)

It might well be an interesting election.


4 Responses to Back to the Future Election.

  1. emilwentzel says:

    Your humour is refreshing. And Your observations are quite interesting. I’m just wondering, what happens when you factor in the 48% turn out of voters at the last election, does the ANC loose or gain points?


  2. The Creator says:

    Good question, Emil. It seems not to make much difference. The probable reason is that people who stay away from the polls tend to do so because they feel powerless. If the DA can whip up more white and coloured support (as seems likely) then they will overwhelm the ANC in the Western Cape (but probably nowhere else). If the CoPe (or the ANC) could whip up more african support with a more seriously populist campaign (that is, actually presenting policies which appeal to the people) then they might do better. But the low voter turnout you are pointing to seems to be an across-the-board phenomenon racially — although it probably affects the working class slightly more seriously than the middle or upper class. (Notice that Obama in the United States won a significant majority of the upper class; the rich are always a bit more interested in who’s in charge than the poor, because whoever is in charge will have to give them something.)

  3. Steve says:

    And what about the ID?

  4. […] next election Jump to Comments The Shrieking Man has some interesting comments on the current state of South African politics as we prepare for next […]

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