The Age of Coalitions is Set to Begin
Tue, 02 Aug 2016 12:20:47
Social media data capture by BrandsEye indicates voter sentiment that suggests a scrambling in South African politics.
The record of party mentions on social media platforms, in correlation with their local reference points, implies an ANC share of positive mentions at below 50 per cent in every contestable metro (namely Cape Town, Tshwane, Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay).
Nationally, the ANC receives 41,5 per cent of all positive mentions, whilst the DA and the EFF have received 36,2 and 22,3 per cent respectively, throughout the month of July.
For a globally revered struggle movement whose support has never gone below 60 per cent, the picture on social media would seem to suggest the days of their having to share power are suddenly upon us.
With unsteady polling to match, disruptive protest activity, and institutional instability within the ruling party, the social media statistics point towards a new era in our politics in which parties will have to face the rough edges of our republic’s proportional representation system.
In short, they will need to come to terms with the political necessity of hammering out coalitions with their rivals in order to govern. Their rhetoric of ‘burying’ each other and the like will be tested in the daily grind of actually governing together.
Indeed, there have already been reports of secret meetings between party leaders as they look to prepare to make the best of none of them receiving majorities in local executive councils.
While coalitions in municipalities will not be new for the country, coalitions which may exclude the ANC in major metros, beyond Cape Town, will be a jolt to the system.
Of course, social media in South Africa, for technological and social reasons, does not obviously yet provide a full picture, but the data does seem to confirm a growing feeling (as well as some of the volatile polling released by Ipsos and eNCA) that the ANC could lose another two major metros to the leading opposition party, the DA – with Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane in particular looking vulnerable, and Johannesburg set for a close finish too.
There is huge negative sentiment online amongst black social media users toward the ANC in all of the contestable metros, with the ANC only averaging around 5 percentage points higher in positive mentions as compared to negative mentions concerning those municipalities.
Let’s look at some of the other specific swathes of darkness for the ANC:
#1 In Cape Town, the ANC is set to experience an electoral disaster and the DA could well be in reach of a two-thirds majority. It should be noted though that the governing DA receives half of social media’s negative black mentions concerning the city (as shown above) – a noteworthy data point, considering they are the party in power facing the test of governance.
#2 The bottom seems to have fallen out of any support for the ANC among coloured social media users, with huge negative sentiment toward the party within that demographic.
#3 There is also startlingly high positive sentiment for the EFF in virtually every one of the major metros. However, this is likely less a signal of a burgeoning voter surge for the EFF (the polls, as unreliable as they may be, seem to be consistent on this point), but rather represents how Malema’s party satisfies an emotional need for protest against ANC failures and corruption. Such sentiment is not going to help ANC voter turn-out.
It must be noted, however, that the ANC is an enormously popular brand; it vastly outspends its rivals in campaigning; and the opposition parties are not without their own flaws and stigmas.
There is also the question of the silent segment of the population who are either not on social media, or do not get involved in political discussion. Polls also suggest a massive undecided swing vote, particularly among historic ANC supporters that could yet spring a surprise.
Nonetheless, data cannot simply be ignored. On the eve of a watershed election, the most likely result seems to be the further losses of major metros to either the DA outright, or to DA-led coalitions, which will be a major blow for the prestige of the ANC.
Politically, the nation should hope that this new age of sharing power heralds a new political landscape in which policy rather than politicking and name-calling headlines the conversation in the public square. Equally, one may hope for an institutional renewal in the ruling party, as the necessity for political survival begins to incentivize some much needed reform.
However, a bout of civil instability should also not be ruled out.
By Chris Waldburger – Freelance Journalist
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