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South African elections: present trends and electoral scenarios up to 2030
Date: 9 April 2014
Time: 10h30 - 13h00
Venue: Seminar room, ISS Pretoria

As South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy, we stand on the cusp of the most contested post-apartheid election. This seminar considered trends in the 2014 elections and mapped out electoral forecasts to 2030, in line with the three different scenarios outlined in a recent ISS paper by Jakkie Cilliers.

Collette Shulz-Herzenberg, academic and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town, opened the seminar with a presentation of electoral behaviour and participation in South Africa since 1994.

In examining the voting age population (VAP) and the percentage of registration, she found that there has been a decline in electoral participation. While the VAP had increased, voting registration had not kept pace with that increase. Consequently, there has been a declining ratio of registered voters compared to the VAP.

Provincial support for the African National Congress (ANC) showed a notable decline across all provinces in the 2009 elections – except for KwaZulu-Natal, where there had been a 15,9% increase. This province kept the ANC’s national share of the vote above 65%. The youth vote is often talked about as a ‘game-changer’ in the coming elections. According to the latest figures:

  • There are 10,9 million 18- to 29-year-olds who are eligible to vote, comprising 34% of the VAP
  • Only 6,4 million have registered to vote, comprising 20% of the VAP and 25% of all registered voters
  • Some 59% of all eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 are registered
  • However, only 33% of all 18- to 19-year-olds are registered

This election will shed light on whether long-standing party identification is starting to weaken, whether government performance may start to matter more and whether parties like the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are seen to offer credible alternatives to the ANC.

Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director of the ISS, discussed the various scenarios in his latest policy brief, ‘Forecasting South African elections’. The brief builds on a February 2014 paper on the future of South Africa, which maps three different scenarios (Bafana Bafana, Mandela Magic and A Nation Divided) – each with different implications for the elections taking place in 2014, 2019, 2024 and 2029.

Each scenario is based on a complex interplay of social, political and economic factors. Cilliers identified several factors that appear decisive for the future, namely the importance of a strong ANC in all these scenarios; how developments within COSATU could imply new political alignments for the future; the effect of increased voter apathy; and the ability of opposition parties to attract young black voters. Cilliers made recommendations, including:

  • Reforming the current electoral system to create higher levels of accountability
  • Introducing mandatory voting for local and national elections
  • Adding a ‘none-of-the-above’ option to the ballot papers
  • Focusing on ethics and values, fixing education and acknowledging the importance of economic growth and the National Development Plan (NDP)

The seminar was chaired by Judith February, a senior researcher in the Governance, Crime and Justice Division of the ISS.


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.
Seminar room
ISS Pretoria
Judith February
Phone: +27 83 453 9817
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