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MK could score ‘protest vote’ in upcoming elections

by Zahid Jadwat

Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe party (MKP), fast swelling to rival the African National Congress (ANC), could bag the “protest vote” in the upcoming elections. So says Michael Atkins, an independent elections expert.

Launched in December, the party has put up a fight in by-elections in KwaZulu-Natal just four months into its existence. It has swept wards from the ANC in that province, and a recent poll by the Social Research Foundation placed it at 13% nationally next month.

Atkins said there were a number of those within the ranks of the ANC and among voters in KZN who support the MKP. He said there were many who might cast a “protest vote”.

“Obviously, we’ll have to see how that translates into electoral support. There is a strong indication, though, in KwaZulu-Natal, that he will gain substantial support from the ANC ranks,” said Atkins in a recent interview on Salaamedia.


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‘Protest vote’

According to Atkins, the MKP could create “significant discomfort” for the ANC. The latter has governed nationally since the end of apartheid, but could dip well below the 50% needed to govern when the election is done and dusted.

He said more than just supporters within ANC ranks, Zuma might be able to take advantage of those who abandoned the ANC in the past. Such people may have been disillusioned with Zuma’s 2018 ouster.

“There are other voters who may have left or changed from the ANC in the past, who might feel that he has a good protest vote. I’m certain we will see the MK affect the outcomes and, if there are coalition discussions at either provincial or national level, they are certainly aiming – and certainly likely to be – a significant part of those coalition negotiations.”

Although it was too early to say what a post-election coalition arrangement might look like, he said, there were signs from local elections that delivered the ANC a blow.

“While none of us can really predict what will happen, we do know from past experience that there are a range of possibilities that exist. To my mind, it would be wise for parties to keep their options open and simply to see how the results play out, and then to have sober-minded discussions after the elections.”

Last week, the MKP scored a victory in the Electoral Court when it ruled Zuma was eligible to return to appear on the ballot. This was despite his criminal record arising from his conviction and sentencing to 15 months in jail for contempt of court back in 2021.

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