Cape Town - Getting voters to the hustings will be crucial in Wednesday’s election as every vote counts in South Africa’s proportional representation system, says Institute for Security Studies consultant Jonathan Faull.
Even if a small political party stands no chance of being the first past the post in the provincial arena, all its votes are counted and tallied for seats in the provincial and national legislatures.
If a smaller party gains 40 000 votes, that’s a seat in the National Assembly.
In 2009 parties such as the UDM, Freedom Front Plus, the ACDP, the PAC and Azapo received between one and four seats on the back of anything from 38 000 to 149 000 votes.
“It’s critical at this stage (for political parties) to maximise their numbers. To do this you need a functional party apparatus, you need a (party) machine, volunteers and the energy to motivate voters to come out,” said Faull.
“Campaigning is largely to build up momentum, to energise your constituencies, support bases, to convince them...”
If voters stay away, more “voting cake” is available to fewer parties, effectively increasing the proportional power of those who do vote and the parties they vote for.
The impact of the “Vukani! (Wake Up!), Sidikiwe (We are fed up!), Vote No!” campaign to either strategically vote for parties other than the ANC, or spoil the paper, in protest against corruption and maladministration, could only be assessed in a limited way as spoilt votes are not analysed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Even if there was a “huge increase” in spoilt votes, Faull said, this could indicate either a political statement or just inadequate voter education.
Since 2004 the percentage of spoilt ballots has hovered at or just below 1.5 percent of all votes cast, according to IEC statistics.
Faull said the elections would largely be written in three provinces – Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape – as these together constituted 55.5 percent of all registered voters.
Describing the race in Gauteng and the Western Cape between the ANC and DA as “particularly competitive”, Faull argued it was nevertheless unlikely the incumbents would be unseated.
In the Western Cape, the DA had run a positive campaign against the ANC’s “rudimentary” electioneering and, according to anecdotal evidence, the DA had also boosted voter registration figures in its strongholds even if the province in recent years recorded among the highest numbers of community protests against shoddy service delivery.
In Gauteng, which has been more contested than any other election, the ANC was set to lose, but not drop below 50 percent, on the back of the disaffection among significant constituencies, particularly in Johannesburg, over party president Jacob Zuma, but not the ANC itself.
“Zuma is extremely unpopular with certain constituencies.
“This has been effectively targeted by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and to some extent the DA,” said Faull.