It takes two to toyi-toyi: one party dominance and opposition party failure in South Africa's 2019 national election

Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, Robert Britt Mattes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Why do dominant parties continue to win elections despite significant governance failures? Scholars of one party democracies tend to locate explanations at the macro-level: manipulation of rules, control over state media, or selective distribution of benefits to supporters. Other scholars emphasize ethnic or religious identities which trump consideration of policy and performance. We employ a multinomial regression model of voter decisions in South Africa’s 2019 general election to explore how the ruling African National Congress managed to secure 58% of the vote amidst a massive corruption scandal and waning public services. We find that dissatisfied government supporters do not ignore poor performance, but must perceive a legitimate alternative amongst the opposition before they switch their vote. Otherwise, they exit the electorate. This allows the governing party to win significant proportions of a diminishing electorate. Thus, decisions about whether to vote are not just a result of resources, mobilization or efficacy, but are also rooted in perceptions of governing and opposition parties. Voter turnout and vote choice are intimately linked, rather than separate causal processes. Moreover, continued one-party dominance may be as much a function of opposition party failure as it is of government control over rules, rents or resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1313-1334
Number of pages22
JournalDemocratization
Volume30
Issue number7
Early online date11 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • elections
  • voting
  • political Parties
  • one party dominance
  • South Africa
  • Africa

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