Expect more coalitions after elections

More ‘marriages of convenience’ between political parties that want to govern a municipality can be expected after the upcoming elections.

Coalitions are here to stay. This is the opinion of Dr Pieter Mulder, an independent political analyst.

In the 2016 municipal elections, coalition governments were formed in areas where the ANC did not win an outright majority, and Mulder says they will again feature in the upcoming local government elections. Coalitions are formed when no single party wins a 50% majority, and the parties with the most votes decide to join forces to secure a governing majority.

According to Mulder, South Africa was well on its way to a one-party state, with the ANC steamrolling all other parties in the elections.

“But in 2016, the big turnaround happened and all of a sudden, with the ANC under 50% of votes in some municipalities, it became possible for other parties to become part of government by way of coalitions,” says Mulder.

But coalition politics is not well known in South Africa, he says, and these coalitions battled to stay focused.

“It is a culture that you need to get accustomed to. If you go to Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and other countries in Europe, you will see that they are very comfortable with coalition governments. It is something South Africans will have to get used to.”

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But what is a coalition government?

“In a coalition, political parties cooperate to form a government when one party does not have an outright majority,” says Mulder.
He says coalitions in Europe are usually formed when parties want to secure a governing majority, a stronger opposition, or to consolidate electoral support.
At the moment, coalitions in South Africa are formed to secure a governing majority.
For a coalition to work, Mulder says:
• All parties must benefit from the coalition.
• Mutual respect and understanding is imperative.
• It is important to compromise.
• Parties must form a partnership, no matter the size of the different parties.
• Parties need to create a new manifesto for the coalition.
• Coalition members must focus on shared ideas rather than their own ideologies.