09 May, 2014

Voting for change yet not changing the vote.

By Chanté Petersen

Marking 20 years of democracy, there is little surprise as the African National Congress retains it’s 60% of the vote in the fifth general elections.

The picture makes a slight change in political-hue provincially, as the Congress of the People (COPE) becomes the official opposition to none. 

‘There were over a million people who voted for COPE in 2009, but where did they go?’ question raised by Daily Mavericks, Stephen Grootes. 

Although the 2009 figure came about in a political scene in which the Economic Freedom Fighters and AgangSA did not yet officially exist, COPE did. 

‘The more time you spend fighting each other for control, the less successful you will be. COPE is going to be written-up as the textbook case of that’, Grootes continued. 

While the Democratic Alliance may have claimed some of these voters, others may have shut themselves off into the world of non-voters and the last few may in no doubt have turned to EFF and AgangSA.  

COPE was not the only political party to experience fundamental change. The ANC seemed to have lost some popularity as it lost about three percent of votes.  In 2009, the ANC got 65.9% but now it looks as though the current stats will remain around 63%. 

With the ANC leading, the DA is up around seven percent. Although a dynamic with a long way to go, it is one with a clearly gaining momentum. Grootes also explains that if the DA gains seven percent now, it could gain far more in the elections of 2019. ‘Of course, that depends on whether a worker’s party is formed by then, because that will present people with genuinely different choices to the ones they faced this election’. 

There seemed to be a lack of eagerness in voter turnout for these elections. At the time of writing, the turnout stood at 72.61% and counting. This is said to be a good figure for a young democracy. ‘Barack Obama was elected in the USA with a voter turnout of only 57.5%, only being the highest in the USA since 1968’, writes Grootes. 

But I wonder, as to how voters are casting their votes. While they call for great change, majority seem to be keeping the ball of democracy in the hands of the same political players. 

It has been written that FW De Klerk based his decision on which party to vote for on ‘four tests’: who to trust with the constitution and the rule of law, an economic policy best ensuring economic growth and job creation, and based on which party is the most non-racial and has the best track record on corruption. 

Does this support that most of South Africa believes in the ANC as the ruling party to best trusted with the South African constitution and rule of law or because a violent past, are voters simply playing it safe? 

A first-time ‘eligible’ voter says she voted simply to keep the ANC-ruling party out of the Western Cape. While another says voting DA creates a strong opposition as it is needed to keep the ruling party under pressure to ensure performance. 

ENCA analyst Angelo Fick, said when the first results from Mount Ayliff in the Eastern Cape were announced, ‘one had to admire those individuals who cast their votes for the smaller parties’. He continues, wondering where everyone within that community knows who these smaller parties are. ‘If one party gains 148 votes and the next popular party get five, one wonders what factors have led to this conformity? 

“The winning party in such a place will claim that it is a true reflection of their popularity and success, and of the loyalty and gratitude of members. But in modernity, communities thrive on varieties of opinion and belief whether in matters of culture or politics”. 

With little surprise in any radical change from South Africa voters, an ANC online-response believes people vote ANC because ‘behind the scandal and media bias, they are the party that works to advance the struggle of the poor’. Also stating that whether we ‘admit it or not’, life is better because of the ANC and whilst there are many problems, that remains the bottom line‘. 

Perhaps the beauty of politics is that it is experienced differently by different people. One’s perception of the world is not the lived reality of millions of people in this country. 

But throughout all levels of reality, one paradigm should be made apparent: while inching towards a 25-year mark in democracy, we should want nothing less than a political ruling party we trust with the young democratic constitution and the rule of law of South Africa. 

We must keep in mind that people suffered to reach such a diplomatic solution, and that the 1994 election eradicated a brutal state of apartheid.


zion eyes said...

The media would have done much writing on manifestos to make people understand what these political parties are about...but it has failed us as usual. How will underdeveloped citizen of South Africa know their votes are not making any change? When these political parties buy them groceries for their votes...

mailula sanar said...

i believe voters get confused when they are supposed to cast their votes. for instance, one can ask, where are all those people who were complaining about the ruling party before elections? Did they form part of the voters? Who did they vote for?.South Africans need to realise the power of their votes or they will forever vote and see no change.