Sun. Sep 15th, 2019

Gauteng election results: Pitfalls of a potential coalition government

Here are three possible outcomes, should the ANC fail to hold onto its majority.

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Election results are nearing completion, with Gauteng
proving to be the most hotly contested province, threatening the African
National Congress’ (ANC) monopoly.

Follow live election results coverage, here.

Gauteng was also going to be a fierce battleground. The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) inroads into the province, which began during previous municipal elections, have hacked away at the ANC’s support base. Relative newcomers, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who have only contested one previous general election, have also seen good gains in Gauteng, much to ANC’s disappointment.

How the Gauteng election results currently stand

In 2014, the ruling party managed to hold onto its majority
vote, garnering 53.59% in the Gauteng province. As preliminary election results
roll in, it seem likely that the ANC will not only lose support in the region
but fail to surpass a 50% voter share, making the probability of a coalition
government all the more tangible.

The DA, which governs the major metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane, has felt the abhorrent brunt of stagnation. On a national level, the party is unlikely to make any significant gains. In Gauteng, the party currently sits with a tally of 28.48%, a drop in support from its 2014 showing, in which it attained 30.78%. Baring in mind that vote capturing in Tshwane and Johannesburg has not yet been finalised – this figure may change but any real gains remain unlikely.

Leading the charge from behind is the EFF, which, in its 2014 electoral debut, achieved a voter share of 10.30%. The Red Berets, who have campaigned vehemently in Gauteng, currently stand on 13.88% – the only leading party to show real growth in the province.

But the most unsuspecting of contestants, the Freedom Front
Plus (VF), have floored political pundits and detractors alike. The party,
which mainly garners support from Afrikaans-speaking South Africans, has been
the proverbial underdog in this year’s electoral battle. Nationally, the VF
more than quadrupled its voter share, having just 0.55% in 2014 and soaring up
to a current standing of 2.45%.

In Gauteng, the VF has also enjoyed some modicum of support,
earning 1.2% of the provincial ballot in 2014. This year, however, it seems
likely that the VF will increase its voter share nearer to 4%, placing them
firmly in fourth position on the provincial leader board.

These four political players hold a relative amount of power
in the Gauteng province; a power which will come into play should no party
achieve an outright majority. If the ANC does not breach the 50% mark, talks of
coalitions will immediately spring to the fore.

There is, however, an inherent problem with coalition governments. Such administrations rely on the success of cooperation between parties. This includes, at times, uncomfortable endorsements and capitulations. Under normal circumstances, when dealing with moderate political forces, these issues can be ironed out through dedicated deliberation and compromise.

The problem with coalition governments

But what happens when political parties are so fundamentally
estranged from one another, when primary principles stand in opposition and
common ground seems almost impossible to find? Gauteng province may serve as
the perfect testing ground for the above conundrum.

The ANC, as a matter of bravado, has already stated that it
won’t be entering into any coalitions. The party’s national spokesperson, Pule
Mabe, uttered these words, which may come back to haunt him:

“We contest elections to win. It was our desire that the ANC should emerge as a government in all provinces. You must not even draw us into that [coalition talks] space as yet.”

Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, has also been critical of
coalition governments but maintains that there would be room to ‘negotiate’.
Coalition issues between the EFF and DA have been well documented. These issues
stem from vast ideological differences; the EFF being the bastion of the
radical left while the DA maintains its moderate appeal. Shortly before 8 May,
Malema infamously said:

“I don’t think it will work. We are giving the DA power in Tshwane and Johannesburg. They are biting the hand that is feeding them and expect that hand to continue feeding them. It’s unscientific; it won’t work.”

In the same breath, Malema did, however, admit that a coalition
with the ANC seemed more plausible, saying:

“We will go to discussions with the ANC. The ANC has not been hostile to us. The ANC has not been engaged in violent activities against us.”

The DA, on the other hand, is open to all talks of a coalition government, as long as it fits its political agenda, which is simply to break the ANC’s administrative monopoly and close the gap in support. The official opposition party has, however, been bitten at least twice before by its hasty coalition agreements. In Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB), DA Mayor Athol Trollip got the boot as the result of one such collapse.

A coalition against the ANC

In this hypothetical scenario, if the ANC fails to maintain
a majority, all opposition parties would need to join forces. The DA, EFF, VF,
ACDP and others would need to set aside their gargantuan differences and join
their share of votes to scrape past the 50% mark.

The VF’s grand showing, though, is likely to make this
coalition unworkable. If you thought a working relationship between the EFF and
DA was hard to achieve, getting the VF and the Red Berets to sit around a table
and agree on anything seems almost impossible.

Although primarily dissimilar in almost every single way, the main insurmountable hurdle will be a difference of opinion regarding the expropriation of land without compensation.

Malema has, on numerous occasions, said that he will only enter into a coalition with political parties which endorse amendments of Section 25 of the Constitution. The VF, which is supported by thousands of farmers, will never agree to the terms. Discussions will deadlock and the coalition will fall apart.

It’s unlikely that the DA will be able to oust the ANC
without the assistance of both the EFF and VF, placing the opposition party in
a prickly predicament.

EFF joins forces with the ANC

The ANC may be able to scrape past 50% with support from a
few minority parties but, in all likelihood, it will be forced to pick between
the EFF and the DA. The latter seems highly unlikely but stranger things have
happened.

That leaves the possibility of an ANC-EFF coalition, which,
by all accounts, isn’t that farfetched. Malema has, on occasions, rebuked the
notion but, in light of recent calls for the EFF Commander in Chief to ‘return
to the ANC’, this coalition seems plausible.

This hypothetical situation is also fraught with problems. The EFF has built its primary support base on the back of ANC-bashing. Malema has called for the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa and other ANC ministers. This rhetoric, which has undoubtedly resonated with disillusioned ANC voters, would need to be abandoned.

DA and ANC in unity

The third, and most unlikely of coalitions, is between the DA and the ANC. This would mimic a macro Government of National Unity. For obvious reasons, though, this seems to be bordering on absurdity.

Political analysts, however, say that as unlikely as it may
be, the joining of hands in Gauteng could go a long way to improve socio-political
cohesion and foster a greater sense of unity.

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