South Africa Votes: “Cold” Weather Jeopardizes Voter Turnout

South African political scientist Daniel Silke: “The ANC should prepare for a result potentially below 50%”

More than 27.6 million voters are invited to go to the polls on Wednesday, May 29 in South Africa to determine the new composition of the National Assembly (Parliament) and local governments. Everyone agrees that today’s election will be the fiercest and most unpredictable since the abolition of apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC), in power for 30 years, risks losing its absolute majority in parliament for the first time.

This is a day off, but first-time voters, dressed very warmly because of the cold winter morning in the Southern Hemisphere, braved the freezing weather and took their place in line at dawn to cast their ballots. Polling stations are open from 07:00 to 21:00 local time, with final results expected at the end of the week. The next president of the RSA will be elected in June. South Africa is one of the BRICS countries, and the choice of a new president could affect Johannesburg’s foreign policy.

The complicated procedure requires eligible voters to mark three separate ballots to elect their deputies. For parliamentary elections, the blue ballot contains party lists compiled at the national level, while the orange ballot represents essentially the same parties, but with the addition of representatives elected at a local level. The third pink ballot is used to elect provincial assemblies. As is very common in the Global South, to prevent “multiple voting” from the same person, voters’ thumbs will be stained with indelible ink.

Daniel Silke

As Daniel Silke, director of the Center for Political and Economic Analysis, told reporters in Cape Town on the eve of the crucial vote for the ANC, “this election will undoubtedly be the most unpredictable since 1994.” According to Silke, because of the growing disillusionment with the ANC, linked in particular to “its failure to ensure economic growth and job creation, to reduce poverty,” to guarantee water and electricity supplies to the less wealthy classes, and to fight rampant crime, the dominant party, which controls 230 of the 400 seats in the outgoing parliament, should prepare for “a result potentially below 50%.”

Finally, also due to “the winter cold,” so to speak – in Johannesburg it’s +18 degrees Celsius – there are fears of low voter turnout, which over the past two decades has fallen from 89% (1999) to 66% in the last election of 2019.