Johannesburg - It is not the first time that South Africa has seen a coalition of political parties. Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota announced this week that his party had formed a coalition – the Collective for Democracy (CD) – with three others.
Will the CD dent the ANC’s support and its hegemony in Parliament? And, given the various parties’ divergent policies, will the merger last?
The CD consists of strange bedfellows: Cope, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Freedom Front Plus and the United Christian Democratic Party.
The IFP, although mentioned by Lekota as a partner, quickly distanced itself from the merger.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the CD was a coalition for survival by parties whose support was fast disappearing.
“I don’t think this will last. The characters of these parties make it unimaginable that they can constitute a single unit,” he said. “Any party that is feeling strong would not enter into a coalition.”
Mathekga said Cope, of all the partners, needed the partnership after years of self- destruction and bleak electoral prospects next year.
In 2009, Cope secured 30 seats in Parliament, a feat they are unlikely to repeat next year, he said.
The FF+, on the other hand, would be the biggest loser in the coalition, as it had an established, loyal constituency whose interests largely clash with those of Cope members.
With sketchy details on how it would work, Lekota said the agreement was centred on 20 “joint areas of priority”, including education and opposing the Protection of State Information Bill.
He said that the coalition would soon announce its leadership, at which point it would become clear how it would approach the ballot paper.
Overall, the electoral performance of the UCDP, FF+ and ACDP has been in decline.
The CD’s combined seats in the last election amounted to 39 – far below the ANC’s 264 seats.
In 2004, the ACDP won seven seats in Parliament, compared with the three it secured in the 2009 election. Similarly, the FF+ has fallen from nine seats in Parliament in 1994 to four in 2009.
While the UCDP’s fortunes nationally have been dismal, its focus was always in the North West. Even on this front, its support has dwindled.
Cope’s infighting has ravaged the party and resulted in it performing below its potential in the 2011 local election.
But the absence in the coalition of the DA, AgangSA and Economic Freedom Fighters – which have the potential to garner a significant slice of the vote – is conspicuous.
The DA, Cope, United Democratic Movement and Azanian People’s Organisation started talks of a coalition as early as November 2011.
But personality clashes, ideological differences and disagreements over the form and shape of the new party led to negotiations breaking down.
However, Mathekga said the ANC should be worried that opposition parties with different views were coalescing.