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Elections hold prospect of new, improved political landscape in SA

Published Oct 5, 2023


Dugan Brown

AS THE 2024 South African general elections loom on the horizon, political analysts and citizens alike are anticipating a potentially groundbreaking outcome – the possibility of a hung Parliament.

This scenario, in which no single political party holds an absolute majority in the legislature, has never occurred in South Africa's democratic history. One of the primary reasons driving the prospect of a hung Parliament is the increasing fragmentation of South Africa's political landscape.

Traditionally, the ANC has dominated the political scene, securing comfortable majorities in previous elections. However, in recent years the ANC's popularity has waned, giving rise to a host of smaller parties vying for power. This fragmentation is likely to dilute the vote share of larger parties and make it harder for any one party to secure an absolute majority.

Widespread public dissatisfaction with the performance of incumbent parties is another critical factor contributing to a potentially hung Parliament. Economic challenges, corruption allegations, and a perceived lack of progress in addressing social issues have eroded trust in established parties.

This has led many voters to explore alternative options, from established opposition parties to newer, more niche political movements.

The 2024 election is likely to witness the emergence of new and dynamic political forces that are reshaping the electoral landscape. These include parties with specific regional or issue-based agendas, such as environmental sustainability, socio-economic justice, and regional autonomy. These smaller parties, while potentially lacking the broad national appeal of the ANC or other established parties, can garner significant support in their specific niches, potentially chipping away at the traditional power bases.

With the potential for a hung Parliament, the concept of coalition politics comes to the forefront. This would require parties to negotiate and collaborate to form a stable government. Such an arrangement can bring together diverse perspectives and priorities, potentially leading to more balanced and inclusive policies. However, it also presents challenges, as diverse ideological positions and interests must be harmonised to govern effectively.

A hung Parliament scenario can be viewed as an opportunity for increased political accountability. In a system where no single party holds an absolute majority, decisions must be made collectively, encouraging transparency, debate, and consensus-building. This can lead to more robust checks and balances within the political system, potentially mitigating issues of corruption and unilateral decision-making.

The 2024 general elections present a unique and historic opportunity for the country's political landscape. The potential for a hung Parliament is a testament to the evolving nature of South African democracy and the increasing diversity of political voices. While it introduces challenges in forming a government, it also offers the prospect of more inclusive and accountable governance.

As voters head to the polls, they have the power to shape the future of South Africa's political landscape. The outcome of this election may not only determine the composition of the next government, but also set a precedent for future elections, potentially heralding a new era of multiparty co-operation and accountability in South African politics.

Brown is a Bachelor of Social Science student at UCT.

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