Election Watch

Counting just about done, but some uncertainties linger

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With 90% of the 2016 local government election’s votes counted by 06.00 the general picture is clear, but some uncertainties will linger for some time.

The biggest winner in the election was South Africa’s democracy. Not only has it shown that it can handle a very hotly contested election peacefully and orderly, bar a few isolated incidents, but it is clearly deepening and broadening.

With more than 26 million registered voters, the turnout of around 58% is well above the global trend for local government elections. And, the fact that a record number of 204 registered political parties participated showed that democracy is broadening in the country.

ANC the biggest loser

While democracy as a whole was the big winner, the ANC was the biggest loser. For the first time since 1994 its share of the votes cast country-wide, has dropped below 60% and significantly so – from 62.93 in 2011’s municipal elections to 54.19% this year.

Besides Cape Town, the country’s legislative capital, where the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) won with an increased majority of 68.85%, its support in Tshwane, which includes the administrative capital of Pretoria, has dropped to 43,1% with 90% of the votes counted.

For the ANC this is not only a big psychological blow, but it will remember the DA (on 42.7% of the vote presently in Tshwane) originally clinched control over Cape Town in a coalition with smaller parties.

And, it would seem at this stage that South Africa’s (unofficial) financial and commercial capital, Jo’burg, is also heading the coalition way. There the ANC, at time of writing, stood at 41.6% of the 90%-count of the votes and the DA at 42.7%.

Although not absolutely sure at this stage, all indications are that the DA will also be taking control of the council in the Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) metropole.

As a curtain raiser for the next national general election, scheduled for 2019, the sings for the ANC are pretty bleak as its political iron grip on the country since 1994 is clearly slipping. The weeks and months to come will also tell, with all the uncertainties coming with it, how it will impact on the position of President Jacob Zuma.

Coalition uncertainties

Although it would seem that Wednesday’s results will be taking the country a big step closer to a new culture of coalition politics, it comes with quite a bit of uncertainties, which could last for some days, or even weeks.

Besides the prospect of coalition governments in Tshwane, Jo’burg and NMB there are eight other municipalities where no single party has captured an absolute majority of the council seats.

In the days, and maybe weeks, to come intense coalition negotiations can be expected between the larger parties (mostly the DA and maybe the ANC) and smaller parties and the spattering of independent councillors elected.

Most of the smaller parties have, however, beforehand ruled out the possibility or coalition with the ANC, but that could still change.

DA biggest winner?

At a cursory look, it would seem as though the DA was the biggest winner in the election, solidifying its hold on the Western Cape province and looking set to gain from coalitions to be formed and registering a dominant profile in metropolitan and other larger urban areas country-wide.

However, it is clear that the DA has not picked up all the support that the ANC has lost.

While the ANC has lost 8.04 percentage points since 2011, the DA has picked up 2.44.

It is clear that the EFF, with a 1.25 gain in terms of percentage points and a number of other smaller parties and independents have picked up some of the ex-ANC votes, even if many of them did not capture any seats in councils.

Some positive developments

It would seem as though the election process and the way it developed had a positive effect on the country’s image abroad and importantly on investors and the financial markets.

Yesterday the rand did not only achieve its highest level against the US dollar in nine months, but the country’s bond market also improved.

by Piet Coetzer

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