The Results of Election '04: Looking Back, Stepping Forward

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Centre for Social Science Research

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University of Cape Town

It is undeniable that the electoral dominance of the ANC has been steadily increasing since 1994 at both national and provincial levels. The 2004 election will probably be remembered particularly for the fact that the ANC secured its Parliament of Hope, winning over two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly and the power to form the government in all nine provinces. In contrast to the ANC's consolidating hold on the electorate, the opposition's share of the vote has steadily declined and fragmented since 1994. What do the 2004 electoral returns mean in the context of the evolution of politics and partisan competition in South Africa over the past decade? What do trends in voter registration, turnout and electoral violence say about the consolidation of democracy in South Africa? This paper traces trends in South African electoral politics over the past decade, with particular emphasis on the 2004 election results and the increasing normalisation of democracy and what that means for the character of South African party politics. I argue that trends in voter turnout and declining electoral violence could be viewed as a process of democratic maturation, rather than solely a symptom of widespread disengagement from the political system. The paper assesses trends in electoral outcomes at the national and provincial levels and discusses implications for democratic stability. In light of the 2004 elections, the paper also assesses the composition of the national parliament and Cabinet in terms of retention of members with experience in governance and trends from 1994 to 2004. Finally, the paper assesses what implications all these trends have for the consolidation of democracy in South Africa.