August 16, 2010

Two opposition parties to merge

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has announced that it would merge with the much smaller Independent Democrats (ID) to offer a united electoral challenge to the African National Congress (ANC). The announcement elicited muted reaction, with analysts divided on the merger's benefits to the DA, and on its implications for the balance of power in SA.
The DA and ID said they had reached an understanding which would see the ID merge into the DA by 2014. The parties said a merger would create a stronger opposition, which could become a ruling party in time. However, Steven Friedman of the University of Johannesburg's Centre for the Study of Democracy said the merger was "entirely" insignificant. "Putting two opposition parties together is not going to increase the votes for the opposition. In fact it may decrease it. Some ID people who do not like the DA might just decide to stay at home and not vote."

Prof Adam Habib, deputy vice- chancellor at the University of Johannesburg, disagreed, saying that the merger would strengthen the opposition. But he said it was unlikely the merger would make the DA appeal to the majority of voters. The DA had failed to appear as a party that represented the interests of the majority. "It is unlikely it will achieve it with the ID. They might achieve it with a party like COPE, but that merger is unlikely as COPE is in a crisis," he said.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said the merger was not giving his party sleepless nights. "It is not based on any noble principle which will benefit South African society except to fight the ANC," Sokutu said. "As history has shown, marriages of convenience have never lasted in South African politics." (Business Day)

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