13. March 2009

ANC surges in local elections, COPE finds hope

Recent by-election results indicate that the new COPE party could win up to a fifth of the vote in its strongholds in the upcoming general election. Most analysts have estimated it could win around 10 percent overall.

Earlier this month the polling organization Ipsos Markinor found support for the African National Congress flagging significantly in the Northern Cape, but local elections are often at variance from general election outcomes. By-election results from last January showed the ANC¹s support fall nearly 20 percent from 2006 local election averages.

South Africa this week began printing ballot papers for its April 22 parliamentary elections, in which the ANC is likely to end up with a substantial majority.

COPE managed a fifth of the vote in local by-elections in the Northern and Eastern Cape provinces, reckoned to contain, along with the Western Cape, its biggest following. The results showed the ANC garnering 17 out of 21 contested seats across the country. The Inkatha Freedom Party won four seats in KwaZulu-Natal, including one from the ANC by a slim margin.

Analysts argue that the support curve for government correlates with the economy¹s performance. It declined in 2001, rose through the upswing, and declined rapidly again with the recent downturn. Ranking highest among key economic issues, according to the Ipsos Markinor study, are welfare payments being used as patronage.

South Africa¹s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has received numerous complaints regarding this factor. Several opposition parties, including the DA, ID and UDM, have accused the ANC of abusing its position as the governing party by handing out government-funded food parcels to attract support. Examples were cited in the Northern Cape¹s recent by-elections, where the opposition accused ANC organisers of telling voters that a vote for the opposition would result in a loss of pensions and welfare grants. (SouthScan)

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