It is party list season – one of the prime political seasons in South African politics. For the dominant African National Congress (ANC) the candidate lists are prime indicators as to what the new government will look like.
For both the ANC and the opposition parties the lists signify the positioning of leadership and leadership succession. For all parties alike the lists will indicate their level of representativeness and desired appeal to voters.
One can expect that the ANC’s lists will contain hints as to the top hierarchy in the post-May 7 government.
Foremost, nationally, the list will hint at whether ANC deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will enter as deputy president of South Africa. This will be judged by the number two slot on the ANC national list. Provincial nominations have indicated that this slot will be Ramaphosa’s.
The parties’ lists will also signpost how they view their chances come polling day … along with who is in and who is out in the particular party.
Given than 0.25% of the national support brings a political party one MP, we shall be most interested to see who is placed where. Of course, we have to watch both the national-to-national and the provincial-to-national lists, and balance these two.
The ‘crying zone’ of virtually fired or no-chance-of-being-elected list slots for the ANC will be those who come in beyond the early to mid-60% tipping point, or for the DA beyond the 25% mark. The Economic Freedom Fighters is a bit of a wild card … here we shall have to wait and see.
The provincial lists will offer insights into the prime premier candidates for the provinces in which the ANC is in charge. (The ANC, unlike the DA, does not announce premier candidates prior to the elections.)
For all parties, and especially the big ones with their multiple internal interests and agendas, the lists are instruments to keep the party together
The ANC’s national list will offer an invaluable glimpse into how the inner core of the ruling class is currently constituted, how senior ANC personalities see the hierarchies between themselves, and whom they see as top-leaders in waiting.
It reveals at least some of the inner workings in the heart of ANC power. Obviously, given the importance of what will be read into the lists it may also be on the core ruling class’ agenda not to reveal its full hand come the release of the Election 2014 lists.
It will therefore also be essential not simply to take the list hierarchies at face value. But the broad trends will be manifest.
Given the importance of racial and gender inclusivity, all political parties’ lists will indicate the representativeness of the political party at hand.
Some parties like to flash that they include credible candidates from all cultural and racial backgrounds: think DA and ensuring good positions for prominent black faces; think EFF and a sprinkling of significant white faces.
For the bigger parties, especially the ANC and DA, the lists are exercises in internal party politics. The ANC in particular has had to execute a mammoth balancing act to ensure the security of the incumbent power brokers and their president, while being sufficiently conciliatory towards the ‘dissidents’ (for example, the Gauteng ANC) to keep them in and campaigning hard.
In most of the provinces it is important for the ANC to draw opposing factional groupings in, rather than marginalise them and drive them towards the EFF, for example.
For all parties, and especially the big ones with their multiple internal interests and agendas, the lists are instruments to keep the party together. They will thus always combine the positioning of the current and emerging top-leadership with compromises that are required to achieve approximate party unity.
For the micro-parties and micro-parties-in-waiting (both newcomers and those ones that have entered the slipping slope trajectory) it will be a case of getting the leadership (back) into parliament.
Susan Booysen is Professor in Wits University’s Graduate School of Public & Development Management (P&DM) and author of The ANC and the Regeneration of Political Power.
– By COMMENT: Susan Booysen, Wits