Citizens Concerns About Upcoming Elections

The campaign for the 2009 South African election has been more competitive than we’ve seen before. The formation of the Congress of the People (COPE) has upped the stakes, and the country has witnessed some acrimonious exchanges between COPE and the African National Congress (ANC).  There have also been reports of disrupted meetings and allegations of voter intimidation in the by-elections held in mid-December. For this and more on citizen’s concerns about secrecy of the ballot, see recent the Afrobarometer South Africa survey results and discussion below.

The Independent Electoral Commission held a conference late last year in which all political parties publicly committed themselves to creating an environment where all parties can campaign freely and voters can express their opinions without fear of retribution. This intervention was timely, because the most recent Afrobarometer South Africa survey (conducted in October and November 2008 by Citizen Surveys) revealed an that a significant proportion of citizens feared the re-emergence of political violence and intimidation in this country’s electoral politics. The IEC, political parties, and other concerned organizations will need to maintain a high level of vigilance in order to re-assure the electorate.

In addition, with heightened competition expected in the election, a critical issue is whether South Africans feel free to vote as they please and believe that their ballot will indeed be secret. Despite the fact that South Africa has now held three democratic elections and the pronouncement by the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) that the election in 2004 was “the best administered and the freest and fairest to date,” a sizable proportion of South Africans fear that the secrecy of their ballot could be compromised.

The Afrobarometer is produced collaboratively by social scientists from 20 African countries. Coordination is provided by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), the Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy (IREEP-Benin) and Idasa (South Africa). Support services are provided by Michigan State University and the University of Cape Town. For more information, see: http://www.afrobarometer.org.

In South Africa, face to face interviews were conducted in 11 languages with a nationally representative, probability sample of 2,400 respondents across all 9 provinces in October and November 2008. Fieldwork for this survey was conducted by Citizen Surveys (www.citizensurveys.com).

Read these and more results in the Afrobarometer releases here.

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