South Africa’s 2019 national and provincial elections loom large on the horizon and are likely to be bruising and most bitterly contested in the country’s 25 years of democracy.

If the municipal elections in 2016 were somewhat predictable if one tracked by-election and voter registration trends, the outcome of 2019 elections are far less obvious.

What was surprising of the 2016 elections was the scale of the African National Congress (ANC) losses in major metros, where it was supplanted by unlikely coalitions of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and a sprinkling of other smaller parties.

As the country heads into 2019, many of these coalitions, in which many voters thought would be a new model for the future, are struggling to hold due to shifting alliances and local power struggles.

Notwithstanding the hiccups of the experiment with coalitions, the phenomenon could still play a disruptive role in the political landscape.

Then there is the likelihood of new political formations joining the fray (most from ruptures in the ANC and DA). They could fragment and dilute support for the larger parties. The fragmentation could also result in the disappearance of smaller parties with marginal representation in current parliament.

We should not ignore the unpredictable influence and impact of social media proliferation (i.e. #bots, #fakenews), a new dimension not witnessed on this scale, and the infiltration of internal and external “interests” in the elections,

While several factors will play influential roles in pre-election campaigns, the twin factors of voter turnout and public perceptions of good governance, corruption and service delivery failures hold the keys to the final outcome of the elections.

Our #SouthAfrica2019ElectionsOpinionPulse will try to provide some answers.

We will poll and track feedback from some 20,000 registered voters on the issues that matter to them, their views and opinions on the political campaigns and parties, the main candidates and their likely choices in the elections.

The data will be collated and analysed for indicators, trends and scenarios, and released through monthly:

·    “confidential briefs”;

·    one-on-one “briefings”;

·    a series of events – “dialogues” - with leading political analysts and commentators, think-tanks, academics and journalists. (Events will be held under the Chatham ® House Rule.)

·    live-streaming of events.

For more information on #SouthAfrica2019ElectionsOpinionPulse and to subscribe to our “confidential briefs” and one-on-one “briefings”, to register for our “dialogues” and “live-streaming”, please contact us.

Supplementary Information

Election Date: The current terms of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures expire on May 7, 2019. In terms of section 49(2) of the South African Constitution, the president has to announce an election date which can be no later than 90 days after the current 5 year term expires. So the elections have to be held no later than 7 August 2019.

South Africa’s Electoral System: South Africa’s electoral system is built around the concept of “proportional representation” (i.e. power-sharing).

Allocation of Seats: Seats are allocated proportionally – the number of seats allocated to a party depends on how many times the party meets a full quota. This is calculated by dividing each party’s share of the vote, regionally and then nationally, by the quotas determined at those levels. South Africa uses a version of the Droop Quota method.

Parliament: South Africa’s “bi-cameral” Parliament has of 490 seats; two houses – a lower house and an upper house. The lower house, or the ‘National Assembly’, represents 400 seats. The upper house, or the ‘National Council of Provinces (NCOP)’, represents 90 seats (10 members from each province). Members to the NCOP are provincial delegates nominated by each provincial legislature. The National Assembly, however, is filled in accordance with the votes cast in the General Election by the electorate and it is here where the executive cabinet originates.

Political Party Funding: South Africa is one of very few democracies in the world that do not regulate the private funding of political parties. Most countries have laws that encourage parties to disclose their funders. All 10 of the largest democracies in the world have disclosure laws. However, a recent judgment passed down by the Constitutional Court calls for the current law to be amended and for a clear policy to be developed on private funding. The new Political Party Funding Bill (the Bill) is designed to regulate private and public funding, and also proposes that donations from certain groups, such as foreign governments or organs of state, are banned. The African National Congress (ANC) and the biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), agree with the Bill. Only the smaller opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), is refusing to support the Bill.