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A common election manifesto and umbrella identity are among the ideas eight opposition parties have proposed to convince voters they have the strength to take on the ANC.
It’s a survival strategy as old as the oceans, where the minnows swim in a school to tip the odds in their favour, and their political equivalents met at Parliament yesterday to thrash out the final details of a co-operation pact that could see them campaigning together for next year’s polls, under one banner.
They hope to swim against the tide of declining voter support for smaller parties, and re-emerge as a credible alternative.
Though the meeting had been intended to be the final step before party leaders signed off on the agreement, Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota, one of the driving forces behind the initiative, said it had had to work through the proposed joint platform once more.
Delegates would take the revised agreement back to their parties for approval, before a meeting of leaders would be convened for them to sign off on the pact.
The intention was to present the electorate with a “reasonable possibility of a combination of parties that could form a coalition government”.
The parties had realised they couldn’t continue to offer voters only the prospect of “occupying the opposition benches. If we didn’t achieve something different from what we have been doing up until now, we cannot be of much use to the electorate,” he said.
“That’s why we consider that we must approach this election so as to be able to achieve a reasonable probability of laying our hands on the levers of power.”
ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley said once the ANC’s share of the vote dropped below 50 percent, “the electorate is going to expect us to offer an alternative”. The parties had been discussing whether it was “possible that we could actually work together and offer that alternative”.
Given that the FF+ and PAC, – in some ways the ideological inverse image of one another - were participating, had involved some delicate discussions. Watching them trying to find each other had been “quite amazing”.
“So it actually offers hope for something really exciting for South Africa,” Dudley said.
She said the idea, which had yet to be adopted, was for parties to agree on a common manifesto, which they would campaign on, along with their individual manifestos.
“Our own campaigns will continue, but we will also have big collective campaigning.
“The idea would be, let’s say the Collective for Democracy, so it would be CD-ACDP, etc. So we would fall together on the ballot paper, but we would have been doing our best to draw in our own potential vote.”
It was hoped this would capitalise on the individual strengths of parties, as well as their collective strength. The parties believed South Africans were more willing to support “this attempt for people to move forward together, rather than the pulling apart that we’re seeing everywhere else”.
Asked whether there was a risk the messages of individual parties would be garbled in the minds of voters as a result, Dudley said they had been able to articulate “specifically and clearly” what they were agreeing to deliver. “And we really believe those are the things at the forefront of people’s priorities in South Africa today.
“Yes, we will have our differences on other issues, but those… will come further down the line, and those are things that will be put to the electorate to decide on for themselves.”
IFP MP Ben Skosana said the meeting had “refined” the document so it could be used by parties “without any contradictions”. While the agreement focused on policies, it was “obvious” they would have to share some resources.
He agreed the assortment of views might cause “difficulties and confusion” for voters, but said the parties were working on ways to mitigate it. - Saturday Star