Voter participation in the South African elections of 2014


South Africa’s fifth general elections in May 2014 concluded the country’s second decade of democracy. Although the African National Congress (ANC) was returned to power with a reduced majority, it still holds eight of the country’s nine provinces and the opposition parties pose little threat to its hold on political power in the medium term.

Government thus has little incentive to improve its accountability and responsiveness, although in more politically competitive provinces such as Gauteng, where the ANC retained power by only a small margin, voters can expect less complacency.

The steady decline in electoral participation since 1994 may erode the legitimacy that is the lifeblood of democratic institutions and ultimately weaken the overall quality of South Africa’s democracy. Recommendations are made to enhance the quality of future elections.

About the author

Collette Schulz-Herzenberg specialises in research on elections and voter behaviour. She holds a PhD in politics and an MSc in democratic governance from the University of Cape Town (UCT), and a BA Hons in politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. Collette is editor of a volume on the 2014 South African elections, a research associate and lecturer at Stellenbosch University and was awarded a UCT Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in 2012 to examine South African voter behaviour. She has previously worked as a senior researcher at the ISS and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa.

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