THE RESULTS of the 2011 local government elections in Nelson Mandela Bay set the scene for a close contest come 2016. Turnout is going to be the key. With regards the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) the significant statistics were as follows:
• Total Registered Voters: 569,470
• Total Voter Turnout: 369,366
• Turnout Percentage: 64.65%
• Total Votes Cast (Ward and Proportional Representation): 735,014
• Total Votes Cast for ANC (ward + PR): 377,138
• ANC Percentage: 51.91%
• Total Votes Cast for DA (Ward + PR): 291,571
• DA Percentage: 40.13%
The election was remarkable for two reasons.
First, the turnout percentage was extremely high in Nelson Mandela Bay (64.6%), some way above the overall turnout percentage for that election (57.6%).
Second, linked to this, the DA performed exceedingly well; no doubt in part because the high turnout worked disproportionately in its favour (in local government elections, opposition voters traditionally turn out in higher numbers than ANC voters, giving opposition parties an advantage). The DA’s 40.1% in Nelson Mandela Bay dwarfed its national percentage of 23.9%.
To put the DA’s performance into context, in the 2006 local government elections the party managed just 24.3% (the ANC secured 66.5% and the turnout was just 56.1%).
So the 2011 result represented a significant increase for the DA and decline for the ANC. Come August 3, the DA will be aiming to build on this momentum in this year’s local government elections and first prize will be to win a 51% outright majority, thus avoiding the messiness of a potential coalition and all the compromise and risk that comes with it.
So, how many votes, exactly, would the DA have to win to obtain 51%?
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has just completed its second and final registration weekend ahead of the election. Using the total number of registered voters now in Nelson Mandela Bay after that second registration weekend, it is possible to generate some fairly accurate numbers based on different turnout scenarios. The IEC still has to certify the numbers used in this analysis as officially constituting the voters roll (and, in turn, there may be some additional registrations leading up to August 3) but any changes will be small and as a general guide, the existing one will give us a good idea of what is required of the DA.
Following the second registration weekend, according to the IEC, there are now 610,282 registered voters there.
Given the historical fluctuations in turnout in Nelson Mandela Bay, it is difficult to predict what it will be this year. There is a case to be made that it will be low (as ANC voters in particular feel antipathy and apathy towards the party in equal measure). Likewise, it could be high (as the prospect of winning will enthuse opposition voters and bring them out to vote in greater numbers). Thus, we should use a spread that covers both possibilities.
Therefore, I shall use the following eight turnout scenarios: 56%; 58%; 60%; 62%; 64%; 66%; 68% and 70%. These eight options more or less cover both scenarios and place the previous 2011 turnout (64.6%) roughly in the middle.
Here, then, is what the DA requires for 51% in each turnout scenario using Nelson Mandela Bay’s total registered voting population of 610,282:
• 56%: Relatively very low turnout.
This would mean a 341,758 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 174,297 votes.
• 58%: Relatively very low to low turnout.
This would mean a 353,964 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 180,522 votes.
• 60%: Relatively low to average turnout.
This would mean a 366,169 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 186,746 votes.
• 62%: Relatively average turnout.
This would mean a 378,375 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 192,971 votes.
• 64%: Relatively average turnout.
This would mean a 390,580 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 199,196 votes.
• 66%: Relatively average to high turnout.
This would mean a 402,786 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 205,421 votes.
• 68%: Relatively high to very high turnout.
This would mean a 414,992 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 211,646 votes.
• 70%: Relatively very high turnout.
This would mean a 427,197 voter turnout.
Thus, 51% would constitute 217,870 votes.
So, what does this mean for the DA?
Across all eight turnout scenarios, it means the DA (or the ANC for that matter) would need between 174,297 and 217,870 votes to get 51% and an outright majority.
In 2011, the DA got 145,012 (40.02%) votes on the Ward ballot and 146,559 (40.24%) on the PR ballot. You vote twice in the local government polls, once for your local councillor and, in metros, once for the city administration. They are combined for a final percentage. Luckily, for the purposes of simplicity, they usually split almost exactly 50/50, so we don’t need to be too concerned about the DA getting more votes on one ballot than the other (although that is a possibility in the coming election). For the general purposes of this analysis, we can use one or the other, and the PR ballot — because it is for the city administration — is the more helpful.
Using the 146,559 votes the DA got on the PR ballot, this would mean in order for it to win 51% it would need a spread of between 27,738 new votes (on a very low 56% turnout) and 71,311 new votes (on a very high 70% turnout).
In 2011, the ANC got 187,271 votes on the Ward ballot and 189,867 on the PR ballot. Thus, for that party and using its 2011 PR ballot performance, it could afford to lose 15,570 votes (on a very low 56% turnout) but would have to win 28,003 new votes (on a very high 70% turnout) in order to retain its 51% outright majority.
Again, just to reiterate, these are general estimates as the IEC numbers are not final and it presumes a 50/50 split in Ward/PR votes.
The constraints the DA faces in winning these new votes is significant. They are going to have to come, by and large, from new black voters or alienated ANC voters. It has effectively capped its support among white voters across the country. It is true, there is some potential support among coloured voters in Nelson Mandela Bay but the DA has already made significant strides into consolidating that particular demographic (the coloured vote contributed greatly to its 2011 showing).
Apathy among ANC voters is likely to work in the DA’s favour. While it would mean the ANC could afford to lose a significant number of voters and still retain its majority, if turnout is low it is more likely to be as a result of unhappiness with the ANC, meaning a disproportionate vote in the DA’s favour will be greater. So its chances are better.
In turn, one must remember that a “swing” — so long as voters are moving from one party to another — only requires a halfway shift. A thousand voters won by the DA means 1,000 voters lost by the ANC.
The ANC has to start winning new votes in order to retain its majority when turnout roughly hits 61%. However, given its current condition, it is difficult to imagine this happening. Higher turnout means ANC voters are eager to vote. The possibility of losing the metro may galvanise them into action but it is difficult to see it capturing and energising new voters, let alone managing to retain and bring out its existing support on election day. If it does manage to actually get new voters, it will be nothing short of a miracle.
You begin to see how critical it is for the DA to give voters in Nelson Mandela Bay a sense of hope and purpose. It desperately needs to fill Nelson Mandela Bay voters with a sense of belief and purpose, so that they turn out in greater numbers. That is why, no doubt, in the run-up to the election, you will see the DA place a huge emphasis on the message that every vote counts and that each individual vote can make the critical difference.
There are two other general factors worth mentioning. The first is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). It did not exist in 2011, so it is very difficult to gauge how it will perform in local government elections. In the national elections it managed 4.2% (around 18,000 votes). You can be sure its votes will come largely from the ANC too. Thus, the DA’s challenge is worsened. It needs to persuade alienated ANC voters to vote for it, and not the EFF.
This is more difficult than it sounds. Potential EFF voters are more frustrated and radical than those experiencing some profound ideological shift towards the DA and its values. They want a vehicle that resonates that frustration. It is very difficult for the DA to do that and provide a message of hope and positivity.
The two clash to a certain degree. One can see why the EFF is a potential kingmaker. If it manages just to secure the 18,000 votes it got in 2014 it could well be the difference between a coalition and an outright majority for the DA. More than that and it will almost certainly be the difference.
Second, and finally, there is the possibility of the DA managing to get a differential number of votes on the PR ballot. This would allow the ANC faithful to vote for a local ANC councillor, but to vote for the DA to run the metro — the sort of option that might placate a guilty conscience. This is a nice theory but very difficult to actually realise. When it happens, it is usually by coincidence rather than by design. But it is another way for the DA to achieve the outcome it so desperately desires.
When all is said and done, if the turnout in Nelson Mandela Bay is exactly what it was in 2011 — 64.6% — or below, the DA will be extremely happy. Between 15,000 and 50,000 voters are going to decide the outcome of this election and all parties are going to pour everything they have into securing them.
Do Nelson Mandela Bay voters really believe change is possible or are they too sick and tired to care? Turnout is what it is all going to come down to and DA enthusiasm and ANC apathy could be the deciding factors.
© BDlive 2016