South Africa’s 2014 Election Could Be Next Step in ANC’s Steady Decline

South Africa’s 2014 Election Could Be Next Step in ANC’s Steady Decline

In theory, South Africa’s national and provincial elections, to be held on May 7, should give the opposition its best opportunity to date to erode support for the African National Congress (ANC) and to advance a realignment of South African politics. The ANC has had a difficult and unsuccessful period in government since the 2009 election, beset by problems of leadership, internecine strife, countless corruption scandals, confusion over economic policy and daily “service delivery” protests. The country’s post-1994 nadir came in August 2012 with the killing by police of 34 striking miners, a tipping point for many who had previously been unconditionally loyal to the ANC.

Although this year’s poll coincides with the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy, providing the ANC another opportunity to flaunt its liberation credentials, it may also serve to remind voters how much has been left unachieved, and of the shortfalls in ANC performance on unemployment, inequality and poverty, as well as the plummeting ethical standards in government. These deficits should provide fertile terrain for the ANC’s opposition on both left and right.

The ANC is also increasingly vulnerable to the charge that it principally serves the interests of a well-connected elite and is unresponsive to its political base. This is the message of the new Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a party founded by former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who sees the ANC as having betrayed the “revolution.” His call for Zimbabwean-style expropriation is essentially a form of authoritarian black nationalism rather than a sophisticated leftist platform, but voters who feel abandoned by the ANC will be receptive to the approach, which has the potential to make electoral inroads.

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