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A tale of two elections: behind the data of SA's 2014 polls
Date: 29 May 2014
Time: 17h30 - 19h30
Venue: 6 Spin Street, Cape Town

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Daily Maverick hosted a seminar with a difference. Beyond the headlines and the final tallies, what was the South African electorate's real message on 7 May 2014? Which parties and politicians were the real winners – and losers – once all the ballots were counted? 

This seminar was chaired by Judith February, a senior researcher in the Governance, Justice and Crime Division at the ISS, and J Brooks Spector, Associate Editor at Daily Maverick.

Dr Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, an academic and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town, noted that the 2014 elections saw the continuation of a persistent decline in electoral participation. The African National Congress’s (ANC’s) sustained national dominance at the polls conceals important losses for the party at a provincial and local level. Schulz-Herzenberg suggested that the shifts in support for opposition parties – the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – signifies important changes as voters are becoming more critical of the parties they choose to represent them. Competitive electoral campaigns are also becoming an important factor in the party preference of voters, especially in metropolitan areas. Moreover, voter turnout – when measured as a proportion of the voting age population – has dropped from 86% in 1994 to 57% this year. Schulz-Herzenberg stressed that this is worrying, as it may weaken the quality of democracy in South Africa.

Jonathan Faull, the ISS elections consultant, said that the final 2014 election results ‘disguise significant challenges and disquiet within the ANC and its support base.’ Notably, the ANC’s share of the vote declined in all provinces – bar very slight increases in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the Western Cape and the Northern Cape. His presentation further showed that in real terms, the ruling party lost 10,41% of its electoral support, when the number of new voters added to the voters’ roll between 2009 and 2014 are taken into account. Faull also indicated that South African elections are becoming more competitive, as is demonstrated by the considerable growth experienced by the DA. His data revealed that the DA’s share of the total vote increased from a mere 2% in 1994 to 22% in the 2014 election. Faull’s findings also reflected a decline in voter turnout, especially in rural areas.

Discussant Nic Borain, a political analyst, said that the outcome of the 2014 polls was a ‘perfect’ result given that anything below 60% for the ruling party would have served a significant blow to international investor confidence. This is because too much of a drop in support for the ANC may have weakened the ability to implement the National Development Plan, and possibly forced the governing party to adopt more populist economic policies. He suggested that the modest decline in the ANC’s total share of the vote in metro areas such as Ekurhuleni, the City of Johannesburg and Tshwane was an optimistic development, as it may encourage the ruling party to improve its governance in the run-up to the 2016 local elections. He added that a decline in the ANC’s electoral support in the 2014 elections and its growth in KZN was an inevitable trend, taking into account the number of recent political scandals that have occurred.


Media coverage of this event:


A tale of two elections: behind the data of SA's 2014 polls seminar audio recording part 1


A tale of two elections: behind the data of SA's 2014 polls seminar audio recording part 2

This seminar was funded by the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the government of Finland. The ISS is also grateful for support from the following members of the ISS Partnership Forum: Governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
6 Spin Street
Cape Town
Judith February
Phone: +27 12 346 9500
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