The variety and number of parties – 121 in total – who've registered for today's municipal elections is a good indication of the strength of South Africa’s 17-year-old democracy, political analysts say.
Elmond Jiyane/GCIS - Government Communication and Information System/Reuters
Cape Town, South Africa
Sure, the long-ruling African National Congress (ANC) – the vaunted party of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela – is set to win yet another big victory in South Africa's municipal elections today. But don't take that as a sign that South African politics is moribund.
There's a party campaigning for the legalization of cannabis, another promoting the abolition of income tax, and a political movement calling for the full independence of the Western Cape from South Africa.
Indeed, the fringe world of South African politics is alive and well. And analysts say the variety and number of parties – 121 in total – who've registered is a good indication of the strength of South Africa’s 17-year-old multi-party democratic credentials.
“After 1994 we had the towering figure of Nelson Mandela driving us on but now it’s clear that there are different levels of democracy based on cultural, regional, language, and local issues," says Peter Vale, a professor of politics at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. “We’re moving away from that African default position endorsed by [former President] Thabo Mbeki of the one-party answer to all problems, which we’ve seen in Zimbabwe. We have all different types of parties including the Monster Raving Loony-type parties which won’t win, but are competing for votes. I think that represents a healthy democratic culture.”
While political pundits guess the regional and national outcome for the ANC and its main rival, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the smaller parties will be dreaming of influence in the local corridors of power.