Support for the African National Congress (ANC) has dropped below the 50% mark again, according to a recent survey by the Social Research Foundation (SRF).
The SRF report released on 27 October says ANC support levels ‘appear to have slipped’ from 52% in March to 45% in October. This is based on a 66% voter turnout with a 5% national margin of error. Only parties that polled above the margin of error were included in the report, one of three opinion polls released in recent months.
The survey included 1,412 demographically and geographically representative registered voters and asked participants who they would vote for if the elections were held that day.
While the survey is not a forecast of the 2024 election, which will likely be held sometime between May and the middle of August, it does provide an indication of a potential shift in the political balance of power in the country.
ANC losses are DA gains
For the Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition party, the survey results go in the opposite direction. The report shows an uptick in support for the party from 24% in March to 31% in October at 66% voter turnout.
Support for the Economic Freedom Fighters, which won 10.79% of the vote in 2019’s national elections, ‘appears to be pinned at the 10% mark’, according to the survey.
The Multi-Party Charter (MPC), a pact between eight parties (including the DA) vying to form a coalition government has promising prospects. While the SRF did not measure it, two other polls (by Ipsos and the Brenthurst Foundation) suggest that the MPC could win between 30% and 36% of the vote.
The MPC is comprised of relatively small parties including the Inkatha Freedom Party, ActionSA, and the African Christian Democratic Party. Historically, these parties have garnered little attention, but cumulatively they could pose a threat to the ANC in 2024.
What is eating at ANC support?
In the 2019 election, the ANC won 57% of the vote. But after years of corruption scandals, a worsening energy crisis, soaring unemployment rates and troubling crime statistics it appears South Africans are increasingly ready to move on from the party that has governed since independence.
A decline in service delivery in some of South Africa’s largest metros has not inspired confidence either. Crumbling infrastructure in major cities like Johannesburg, for example, has seen the city’s residents go without running water for weeks at a time.
Interestingly, a lower voter turnout would increase the ANC’s chances of reelection and the party will most likely rely on its rural support base to bolster numbers.
“Voter turnout will play a significant role on election day, and multiple analyses suggest that expecting a high turnout may not be realistic, due to prevailing sentiment. Conversely, a low voter turnout could work to the advantage of the ANC, possibly even pushing ANC support above the 50% mark,” Dr Mari Harris, Ipsos public affairs director told The Daily Maverick.
Ipsos conducts regular political polling during both election and non-election years with this year’s poll suggesting that support for the ANC has fallen to 43% while the DA polled at 20%.
What will happen if the ANC loses its majority?
If the ANC gets less than 50% of the votes next year, it could result in South Africa’s first national coalition government since the dawn of democracy in 1994.
For some, particularly investors, this is a cause for concern.
‘If experience elsewhere is anything to go by, South Africa’s current political and institutional dynamics are unlikely to cultivate stable and accountable coalitions,’ writes Heidi Brooks, a researcher at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, in The Conversation.
Stable coalitions, Brooks writes, are contingent on politicians prioritising ‘collective interest over political opportunism’.
The 2024 elections will be the ultimate test for political elites, who will be called upon to prove to constituents that values trump ideological differences.
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