In South Africa's election Wednesday, 26 parties will field national
candidates with several more choosing only to contest the provincial polls.
If South Africa's current parliament is anything to go by, the 400
seats of the national legislature will go to just 14 or 15 parties, with just three or four of those getting more than 10 seats in the
National Congress President Jacob Zuma, confident his party will do
very well in the election, wrapped up a recent rally with Siyaya,
an old struggle song that expresses determination to reach a goal
regardless of how long it takes. For Zuma, the successful conclusion to his
single-minded struggle of nearly 10 years to become South Africa's
president must seem very close.
The latest polls suggest the ANC
will lose between five and 10 percent of its support, but still win the
national election convincingly with about 60 percent of the vote. The
ANC is the oldest liberation party in Africa and will celebrate its
centenary in 2012.
The party came to power in 1994 promising a
"better life for all" which included jobs, houses, and a significant
reduction in the grinding poverty of the black population after three
centuries of white oppression.
Significant progress has been
made in a number of areas, but the ANC in government has missed many of
its own targets and the gap between rich and poor has become wider in
the past 15 years. Speaking at Sunday's ANC rally, former President
Nelson Mandela did not endorse Zuma, and did not offer praise for his
party's achievements. Instead, he chose to remind ANC leaders of what
he sees as their duty.
"As we strive
to secure a decisive victory for our organization in the upcoming
elections, let us remember our primary task. It is to eradicate
poverty and ensure a better life for all. The ANC has the historical
responsibility to lead our nation and help build a united, non-racial
society," Mr. Mandela said.
Lagging somewhat behind the
ANC are two older parties and one new one. The Zulu-dominated Inkatha
Freedom Party of Mangosuthu has been losing ground since 1994
and all indications are that trend will likely continue in 2009.
Analysts say the party pursues a narrow rural-nationalist agenda that
does not have a crossover appeal outside of its base in Kwazulu/Natal.
Polls suggest the white-dominated Democratic Alliance is also likely to
lose ground this time around. Current leader Helen Zille is
fluent in Xhosa and enjoys greater appeal with black voters than her
predecessor. While black membership of the party is growing, analysts
say their numbers remain too low to
significantly expand the party.
A newcomer, the Congress of the
People (COPE), looks set to make a credible impact in this election
just four months after its launch. With a leadership and support base
that seems to neatly reflect the national demographic, the party's launch has generated significant interest.
But internal squabbling
over how to position itself, indecisive and lackluster early
campaigning and a lack of funds has worn off some of the
Party president, a former ANC
chairman, tells VOA the goal of COPE is to offer South Africans a
credible alternative, including having a greater say in the election of
"So we think this
first and foremost: once the people are able to elect directly and put
people in office, and have the capacity to even withdraw them if those
people fail them, that will compel leadership of quality rather than of
loyalty to some party or the other," said Lekota.
he knows the chances his party will win this election are very
slim. Lekota tells VOA that for now he hopes COPE will be the largest
opposition force in parliament and that hard work will bring better results
in future elections.