An array of election posters from various political parties on poles in Pretoria. Picture: AP African News Agency (ANA)
The elections on Wednesday will be one of the toughest polls in the past 25 years, with the ANC facing its biggest test three years after it lost key metros in the municipal polls.

Will people come out in numbers to vote? The Electoral Commission said it saw an average turnout of 75% in the past two-and-a-half decades. The latest polls by Ipsos, conducted between March and April, pointed to an ANC victory, with the DA and EFF close.

Ipsos said the poll indicated the ANC would get more than 61% of the vote, the DA 19% and the EFF would see an increase in its support from 6% to 11%.

What is noticeable in the polls is the drop in the DA support from 22% to 19% in the last national and provincial elections.

The DA has said pollsters sometimes get it wrong, which has been borne out repeatedly in the past.

The ANC has argued that in the 2016 municipal polls the decline in its support from 62% in the 2014 general elections to 54% in the local government elections came about because of a boycott by voters, particularly in Gauteng. This was at the height of state capture.

Intellidex predicted an ANC victory with a margin of between 55% and 60%, followed by the DA with a vote of between 20% and 23% and the EFF sitting in the range of 9% to 12%.

Peter Attard Montalto of Intellidex said the ANC may hang on to Gauteng or rely on a coalition with the EFF to keep it. The ANC is banking on the middle class to come out in numbers to support it.

This is the key contituency for the other parties as well. President Cyril Ramaphosa has had several interactions with members of the middle class to win them back after the loss of the metros in 2016.

Ramaphosa, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, EFF leader Julius Malema and the IFP’s Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi will come out and vote in their respective areas on Wednesday after a gruelling campaign.

Ulundi has been known to be a stronghold for the IFP for years, while the EFF received huge support in Seshego in the last elections. Soweto has been a stronghold for the ANC, with most of the votes from Gauteng coming from there. Both Ramaphosa and Maimane come from Soweto.

The opposition parties have been using state capture and corruption as the core of their campaigns against the ANC.

They have told voters that rampant corruption and evidence from the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture point to an organisation that was not controlling the state, but looting resources.

But the ANC has promised to fix ailing state-owned entities such as the National Prosecuting Authority and Sars and other government agencies. Ramaphosa has told voters that the ANC will fight against corruption and the various commissions of inquiry show they are on the right course.

The issue of land was also part of the parties’ campaigns, with the ANC, EFF, UDM, National Freedom Party and PAC pushing for the expropriation of land without compensation.

The DA, African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Front Plus are opposed to the expropriation of land without compensation and have promised to challenge the parliamentary process in the Constitutional Court.

The middle class is one of the key votes for the parties campaigning in the elections.

This is the same constituency that dealt the ANC a blow in Gauteng three years ago in the local government elections. But analysts believe that some of the people who did not vote for the ANC in 2016 will come out in these elections to back the party.

The economy has also been used as a campaign tool, with the opposition saying the ANC has ruined the economy with the corruption in government. Despite its shortcomings, the ANC has been pointing out its record in delivering more than 4 million houses in the past 25 years and the recently announced fee-free education at universities.

The DA, EFF, IFP and some other opposition parties say the collapse of municipalities, billions of rands in irregular expenditure in local government and the crisis in the healthcare system show that the ANC has failed to run the country and the state is in a downward spiral. 

Service delivery protests in the country have risen in the last decade from 800 protests a year in 2008 to more than 1400 protests in the past financial year. Some of the protests were violent and caused extensive damage to property and the economy. The opposition parties say this is a result of the failure of the ANC government and non-delivery of services at local level.

Factional battles in the governing party have been cited as one of the reasons for failures of local government in various provinces. The DA has pointed to its clean audits in the Western Cape and some of the municipalities it governs as an indication that it is for good governance.

The issue of the faltering economy has been a sticking point for some time, but the ANC says it is fixing the economy and attracting investments. Analysts and opposition parties say there may be announcements on investments by Ramaphosa, but the country needs and wants to see real money.

The IEC has been credited in the past for being able to conduct free and fair elections, but it faces its biggest test yet, with threats of disruptions and violent protests in various parts of the country. In the past the IEC has been able to conduct elections despite challenging conditions, even at the time of violent protests in Khutsong, a few years ago, when the people demanded a return to Gauteng from North West.

The IEC has never been seriously accused of being biased in its work and it has pulled out all the stops.

The IEC has allowed a number of election observers from various parts of the world to do their work. However, the biggest challenge has been the increase in the number of parties contesting the elections.

Before the elections there were more than 250 parties that wanted to contest nationally, but this was substantially reduced to 48 parties after the commission started its process that required parties to pay a fee for the polls. Parties contesting the National Assembly seats and all nine provinces had to pay a total of R600 000. Nonetheless these elections will be contested by more parties than in any of the preceding five.

Some of the parties were formed as a result of breaking away from the ANC such as Cope and the EFF. The African Transformation Movement, which has Mzwanele Manyi as its policy chief, and the African Content Movement of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, are other parties containing people from the ANC.

The parties may have criss-crossed the country and campaigned against each other, but the ball will now be in the court of the voters and the IEC on Wednesday.

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