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Political Parties

ANCAfrican National Congress24911,436,92162.15%54.3%
DADemocratic Alliance894,091,58422.23%26.4%
EFFEconomic Freedom Fighters251,169,2596.35%8.0%
IFPInkatha Freedom Party10441,8542.40%4.4%
NFPNational Freedom Party6288,7421.57%
UDMUnited Democratic Movement4184,6361.00%0.6%
VF PLUSFreedom Front Plus4165,7150.90%0.8%
COPECongress of the People3123,2350.67%0.5%
ACDPAfrican Christian Democratic Party3104,0390.57%0.4%
AICAfrican Independent Congress397,6420.53%0.7%
ASAAgang South Africa252,3500.28%
PACPan-Africanist Congress of Azania137,7840.21%0.2%
APCAfrican People's Convention130,6760.17%0.2%

South Africa's political party system underwent radical transformation in the early 1990s when previously illegal parties were unbanned and participated in the April 1994 elections. With the unbanning of the ANC, PAC and other liberation organisations, and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, the process of negotiations for political change in South Africa began. In what international observers called a "developing multiparty system," parties were challenged to become all-inclusive and not to limit their appeal to their traditional constituent groups. They also had to reorient themselves to participate in the bicameral multiracial legislature rather than the previous tricameral apartheid-based parliament.

Several small political parties participated in the 1994 elections, although, with the exception of the African Christian Democratic Party (which gained two seats in the National Assembly and seats in three of the nine provincial legislatures), none received more than 1 percent of the vote. These parties included the Sports Organisation for Collective Contributions and Equal Rights (SOCCER), the Keep It Straight and Simple Party (KISS), the Women's Rights Peace Party (WRPP), the Worker's List Party (WLP), the Ximoko Progressive Party (XPP), the Africa Muslim Party (AMP), the African Democratic Movement (ADM), the African Moderates Congress Party (AMCP), the Dikwankwetla Party of South Africa (DPSA), the Federal Party (FP), the Luso-South Africa Party (LUSAP), and the Minority Front (MF).

South Africa's 15-day floor crossing period (1-15 September 2007) witnessed the least number of defections since the legalization of floor crossing in 2002, leaving South Africa's distribution of power firmly in the hands of the African National Congress (ANC). As expected, the ruling ANC gained the most with four MPs (one from the Progressive Independent Movement (PIM), two from the United Independent Front (UIF), and one from the Independent Democrats (ID)) defecting to the ANC. Effectively, the ANC now held almost 75 percent of Parliament with 297 out of 400 seats. The Democratic Alliance (DA) remained the second largest party with 47 seats, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) was third with 23 seats. The next largest party is the United Democratic Movement (UDM) with only six seats, followed by the Independent Democrats, Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic Party, and the National Democratic Convention, all of which have four seats. The total number of political parties represented in Parliament stood at 14, after the UIF, PIM, and the United Party of South Africa lost their representatives to other parties.

Public opposition to floor crossing had intensified among think tank analysts, voters at large, and even some ANC members. Critics charged that floor crossing undermined the will of the people, nullifies voter intentions, and encourages political expediency. In most democracies that allow floor crossing, MPs may defect but may not keep their seats unless voted in again in a by-election. Because South Africans vote for a party (as opposed to an individual) in a closed-list system, parliamentary seats should stay within the party. The rule that at least ten percent of a party's elected officials either in Parliament or a council must be willing to defect before any one member can protects large parties like the ANC and makes smaller parties vulnerable to political seduction, corruption, and cannibalism. Lower-echelon ANC members also expressed anger over the politics of inducement, whereby members of opposition parties are lured to the ANC with high-salaried positions, calling the defectors "crosstitutes."

The rule also benefits opportunists who can hive off smaller parties to establish one-man political parties with no electoral support (as Morkel did when he realized he would lose his seat in the DA after being found guilty). This raises additional ethical questions because political parties in Parliament receive state funding without ever having earned a single vote. As leader of a party in Parliament, one is entitled to additional R50,000 ($7,000) in salary. One and two-person parties also enjoy an allowance for office staff of nearly R130,000 ($18,500), R90,000 (almost $13,000) for constituency allowances, and a share of parliamentary funding for research, typically around R100,000 ($14,285). The ANC, which has historically gained the most from floor crossing, defends the practice by painting critics as members of small opposition groups hurt by defections to the ANC and by pointing out that the DA was the first to call for the practice as a way to formally integrate the old Democratic Party and New National Party into the DA. To be fair, though the major opposition parties have criticized the practice, none has refused a defector, at least not on principle.

Financing remains a key collection gap for all observers of South African dynamics. There is no requirement that donors nor recipients publicly report contributions or their source. However, there are anecdotal reports of how the African National Congress (ANC) received funding for the 2009 election. The ANC first relies on key donors allied to the party, such as Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa, to bankroll campaign efforts. This has long been a past practice of the ANC and appears to be continuing in this election. Second, there are reports that companies that have benefited from Black Economic Empowerment deals are providing funds to the ANC. There were stories of the ANC calling senior Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) executives into Luthuli House to ensure the group's financial support ahead of the election. Large companies like ABSA and mining giant Anglo-American reportedly have a policy of donating money to parties, distributing the funds based on their percentage of representation in Parliament. Groups such as the Congress of the People (COPE) struggled for funding because of such guidelines.

All political parties were concerned about intimidation and violence against them and perpetrated by their members. One recent example of this concern is the signing of a "Code of Conduct" at the "Code of Conduct" ceremony hosted by the Independent Electoral Commission on 11 March 2009. At the ceremony, every political party competing in the election publicly signed their pledge against fomenting election-related violence. Political parties such as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), COPE, and the ANC all pledged to run peaceful campaigns and punish those supporters who perpetrate hate against opponents. There had been isolated incidents of election-related violence in KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape, and Free State, but the angry rhetoric between leaders in IFP and ANC was the most worrying trend. Even as national leaders say that cooperation between parties is solid, there have been accusations and anger directed at senior leaders.

All political parties to some extent tailored their messages to key constituencies, underscoring the limits of broadbased political activity in the country. The ANC campaigned heavily in urban townships and predominately black suburbs of the country while limiting their campaigning in white areas or colored areas. The one exception to this appeared in Western Cape, where the ANC was most vulnerable and opted to campaign in many white suburbs with posters in Afrikaans. The ANC's campaign efforts suggested that the party was primarily targeting its core supporters of black, urban, and poor voters. Meanwhile, COPE is campaigned heavily in areas with traditional leaders, at churches, and in suburbs across the country. COPE had mixed success campaigning in urban townships outside Western Cape, suggesting that it is easier for the party to campaign among middle class voters. COPE's strategy suggested the party was looking for support among traditional leaders and among middle class voters. The DA campaigned in its strongholds in Western Cape and in major urban areas, focusing on colored, Indian, and new voters as well as progressive whites. However, its campaign demonstrated the difficulty the party had to achieve its ultimate strategy of attracting black voters to reverse the popular perception that it does not appeal to blacks. The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) campaigned heavily in Afrikaans-speaking suburbs across the country and seemingly had written off trying to win support among black or colored voters in some major areas.

Forty-eight political parties are contesting this years national election, leaving voters spoiled for choice beyond the top three: the African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters parties. While its likely the large, powerful ANC will dominate this election, analysts say the small parties play a valuable role in government. South Africas system of proportional representation means small parties dont need a large number of votes - as few as 50,000 are all it takes - to get one of 400 parliamentary seats.

The pro-legalization Dagga Party - dagga is local slang for marijuana - was behind a widely celebrated, headline-grabbing Supreme Court ruling last year that saw the decriminalization of cannabis in South Africa. But the party missed the election registration deadline this year, so it instead joined forces with the brand-new African Democratic Change party, which is on the ballot.

the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party, which is part of the nation's largest single trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa. Unions have traditionally backed the ANC, but spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola says this party was born of frustration with the ruling party. We are the only political party in South Africa that is fighting for the destruction of the capitalist system," she said.


1 African National Congress ANC 11 650 748 65,90% 66,39% 126 138 264
2 Democratic Alliance DA 2 945 829 16,66% 16,79% 32** 35 67
3 Congress of the People COPE 1 311 027 7,42%, 7,47% 16 14 30
4 Inkatha Freedom Party IFP 804 260 4,55% 4,58% 9 9 18
5 Independent Democrats ID 162 915 0,92% 0,93% 3 1 4
6 United Democratic Movement UDM 149 680 0,85% 0,85% 3 1 4
7 Freedom Front Plus FF Plus 146 796 0,83% 0,84% 3 1 4
8 African Christian Democratic Party ACDP 142 658 0,81% 0,81% 3 - 3
9 United Christian Democratic Party UCDP 66 086 0,37% 0,38% 1 1 2
10 Pan Africanist Congress of Azania PAC 48 530 0,27% 0,28% 1 - 1
11 Minority Front MF 43 474 0,25% 0,25% 1 - 1
12 Azanian People’s Organisation Azapo 38 245 0,22% 0,22% 1 - 1
13 African People’s Convention APC 35 867 0,20% 0,20% 1 - 1
South African Communist Party SACP - - - - - -
National Party NP - - - - - -
      17 549 115     200 200 400

  *Each seat in the NA represents 44 201 votes
**The DA has no national list, so all its members are designated from its regional lists in accordance with item 9 of Schedule 1A to the Electoral Act

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