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DEMOCRACY: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa casts his vote during the South African elections. PHOTO: REUTERS
DEMOCRACY: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa casts his vote during the South African elections. PHOTO: REUTERS

Political landscapes are shifting, but beware of anti-democratic forces

Nontobeko Hlela
A slew of recent elections have left incumbents in shock, changing and restructuring political landscapes.

In India, the far-right Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi had expected to increase its majority. Modi told voters that he was “sent by God” but when the votes were counted, the BJP was stunned to find that it had lost 63 seats, and its majority in the Lok Sabha (House of the People or lower house parliament). With worsening material conditions, including rising food prices, many voters were not persuaded by hateful Islamaphobic rhetoric.

In Mexico, Claudia Sheinbaum, the candidate of the left, won a record-breaking victory after her party had lifted millions out of poverty, raised wages and pensions, and doubled holiday time in its previous period in office under the leadership of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Coming after Lula da Silva’s election victory in Brazil in October last year, and the victory of Gustavo Petro in Colombia in June that year, the left is enjoying a revival in Latin America.

This is in marked contrast to Europe where the recent European Union parliament elections were, outside of Scandinavia, marked by a strong swing to the right. The elections dealt a blow to incumbents in France and Germany; both countries saw their electorates choose parties further to the right.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has responded by announcing snap parliamentary elections in a desperate attempt to get a new mandate from the French people, who had just rejected his party. Macron hopes the French electorate will shy away from the far-right at home and will extend their support to his centrist party. He has acted with democratic maturity and resolved to risk the possibility of a hostile parliament should his party, Renaissance, not win in these snap elections.

Trust in democracy

Our own election in South Africa was correctly called by the pollsters but still left many in shock, and certainly marked the end of an era. We have also seen democratic maturity from some key actors here at home, including President Ramaphosa and the ANC. The value of this should not be understated.

National liberation movements in formerly colonised countries have often turned to dictatorship when they begin to lose their hold on power. There are many tragic examples of this from across Africa, often leading to unnecessary bloodshed and political turmoil.

But, of course, this is not solely a problem in the formerly colonised world. Former US president Donald Trump still maintains that he won the 2020 elections and that the election was stolen from him. He repeatedly tweeted that: “I won this election, by a lot!” As we all remember, this led to an insurrection on the Capitol building, scenes that shocked the world and proved that no democracy is infallible.

Trump’s “big lie” has endured and gained traction among Republicans. This has had the net effect of undermining the rule of law and trust in democratic institutions. Trump didn’t wake up one day and, on a whimsy, start saying that the election had been stolen. In the years and months leading up to the elections, he and those around him had been deliberately undermining the integrity of state institutions, including the state’s ability to hold free and fair elections.

This same trend was observed in South Africa when, in the run-up to the 29 May elections, certain political parties and their leaders began attacking the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). Implicit and explicit threats were made that there would be a violent response if these parties did not win.

The uMkhonto weSizwe party claimed, with no supporting evidence, that their party would win the elections with a 67% majority. The party did extremely well, better than most people who work in and think about politics had expected. Yet, because it did not get the 67% that it had promised its supporters, it refuses to accept the election results. Many worry that the stage is being deliberately set for violence.

Undermining systems

Like the US, South Africa has legal avenues for contesting election outcomes and putting forward any valid claims of impropriety that might change the results. These avenues are open to be used within set timeframes, and evidence is needed for the legal system to be able to reach clear and impartial determinations. Trump and his supporters took the election process under review, had recounting done in some states, and took their complaints to numerous courts.

These recounts did not change the outcome. When he could not succeed in courts, where reason and evidence matter, he resorted to the public soapbox, where he could continue his evidence-free diatribe against the democratic system.

He cynically uses the system to further his own agenda, but dismisses it when it doesn’t suit his needs.

Trump is not alone in his willingness to use democratic processes and institutions for anti-democratic objectives. In many countries, democracy is under attack from would-be authoritarians who want to overturn elections. In our own country, there are those that undermine the very institutions that make up a democratic state, who would tear up the Constitution and put traditional leaders above it, who would move further and further to the right and restrict the freedoms that many have fought so hard to achieve and preserve.

America’s democracy and its institutions are older and stronger than ours, and, although battered, they have endured. The ANC’s political maturity in this time of political transition, and that of a number of other parties, is a good omen for our democracy’s maturing and consolidation.

But we do have significant anti-democratic forces in our society and must keep a watchful eye on our democracy and ensure that those who would turn us against each other – those who threaten unrest, chaos and violence unless they get what they want, when and how they want it – are not given the space and time to sow the divisions. History will not look fondly on politicians who would allow the blood of their compatriots to be spilled for personal gain.

*Nontobeko Hlela is a research fellow with the Institute for Pan African Thought & Conversation and a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg.

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Namibian Sun 2024-07-17

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Currie Cup: NovaVit Griffons 10 vs 52 Vodacom Bulls Rugby World Cup U20: New Zealand U20 31 vs 55 France U20 | Australia U20 36 vs 29 Wales U20 | England U20 31 vs 20 Ireland U20 | Georgia U20 40 vs 36 Fiji U20 | Argentina U20 34 vs 24 South Africa U20 | Italy U20 28 vs 15 Spain U20 Katima Mulilo: 12° | 32° Rundu: 12° | 33° Eenhana: 11° | 33° Oshakati: 11° | 31° Ruacana: 14° | 31° Tsumeb: 15° | 29° Otjiwarongo: 9° | 28° Omaruru: 9° | 27° Windhoek: 8° | 23° Gobabis: 10° | 28° Henties Bay: 11° | 17° Wind speed: 18km/h, Wind direction: S, Low tide: 06:18, High tide: 12:50, Low Tide: 18:28, High tide: 00:54 Swakopmund: 13° | 15° Wind speed: 23km/h, Wind direction: SW, Low tide: 06:16, High tide: 12:48, Low Tide: 18:26, High tide: 00:52 Walvis Bay: 11° | 20° Wind speed: 28km/h, Wind direction: SW, Low tide: 06:16, High tide: 12:47, Low Tide: 18:26, High tide: 00:51 Rehoboth: 9° | 25° Mariental: 9° | 26° Keetmanshoop: 9° | 23° Aranos: 9° | 27° Lüderitz: 10° | 18° Ariamsvlei: 9° | 21° Oranjemund: 10° | 18° Luanda: 20° | 22° Gaborone: 11° | 28° Lubumbashi: 12° | 29° Mbabane: 12° | 28° Maseru: 5° | 21° Antananarivo: 8° | 24° Lilongwe: 15° | 27° Maputo: 16° | 32° Windhoek: 8° | 23° Cape Town: 11° | 14° Durban: 14° | 27° Johannesburg: 12° | 22° Dar es Salaam: 21° | 29° Lusaka: 15° | 28° Harare: 13° | 27° Currency: GBP to NAD 23.64 | EUR to NAD 19.87 | CNY to NAD 2.5 | USD to NAD 18.18 | DZD to NAD 0.13 | AOA to NAD 0.02 | BWP to NAD 1.3 | EGP to NAD 0.37 | KES to NAD 0.14 | NGN to NAD 0.01 | ZMW to NAD 0.69 | ZWL to NAD 0.04 | BRL to NAD 3.33 | RUB to NAD 0.21 | INR to NAD 0.22 | USD to DZD 133.89 | USD to AOA 872.64 | USD to BWP 13.49 | USD to EGP 48.17 | USD to KES 129.98 | USD to NGN 1555 | USD to ZAR 18.18 | USD to ZMW 26.05 | USD to ZWL 321 | Stock Exchange: JSE All Share Index Same 0 | Namibian Stock Exchange (NSX) Overall Index 1783.48 Down -2.4% | Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE) MASI 13456.34 Up +0.17% | Egyptian Exchange (EGX) 30 Index 27828.92 Down -0.44% | Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) DCI 9380.4 Same 0 | NSX: MTC 7.75 SAME | Anirep 8.99 SAME | Capricorn Investment group 17.34 SAME | FirstRand Namibia Ltd 49 DOWN 0.50% | Letshego Holdings (Namibia) Ltd 4.1 UP 2.50% | Namibia Asset Management Ltd 0.7 SAME | Namibia Breweries Ltd 31.49 UP 0.03% | Nictus Holdings - Nam 2.22 SAME | Oryx Properties Ltd 12.1 UP 1.70% | Paratus Namibia Holdings 11.99 SAME | SBN Holdings 8.45 SAME | Trustco Group Holdings Ltd 0.48 SAME | B2Gold Corporation 47.34 DOWN 1.50% | Local Index closed 677.62 UP 0.12% | Overall Index closed 1534.6 DOWN 0.05% | Osino Resources Corp 19.47 DOWN 2.41% | Commodities: Gold US$ 2 472.15/OZ UP +0.15% | Copper US$ 4.43/lb DOWN -0.007 | Zinc US$ 2 886.80/T DOWN -0.55% | Brent Crude Oil US$ 84.50/BBP UP +0.38% | Platinum US$ 1 018.09/OZ UP +1.54% Sport results: Currie Cup: NovaVit Griffons 10 vs 52 Vodacom Bulls Rugby World Cup U20: New Zealand U20 31 vs 55 France U20 | Australia U20 36 vs 29 Wales U20 | England U20 31 vs 20 Ireland U20 | Georgia U20 40 vs 36 Fiji U20 | Argentina U20 34 vs 24 South Africa U20 | Italy U20 28 vs 15 Spain U20 Weather: Katima Mulilo: 12° | 32° Rundu: 12° | 33° Eenhana: 11° | 33° Oshakati: 11° | 31° Ruacana: 14° | 31° Tsumeb: 15° | 29° Otjiwarongo: 9° | 28° Omaruru: 9° | 27° Windhoek: 8° | 23° Gobabis: 10° | 28° Henties Bay: 11° | 17° Wind speed: 18km/h, Wind direction: S, Low tide: 06:18, High tide: 12:50, Low Tide: 18:28, High tide: 00:54 Swakopmund: 13° | 15° Wind speed: 23km/h, Wind direction: SW, Low tide: 06:16, High tide: 12:48, Low Tide: 18:26, High tide: 00:52 Walvis Bay: 11° | 20° Wind speed: 28km/h, Wind direction: SW, Low tide: 06:16, High tide: 12:47, Low Tide: 18:26, High tide: 00:51 Rehoboth: 9° | 25° Mariental: 9° | 26° Keetmanshoop: 9° | 23° Aranos: 9° | 27° Lüderitz: 10° | 18° Ariamsvlei: 9° | 21° Oranjemund: 10° | 18° Luanda: 20° | 22° Gaborone: 11° | 28° Lubumbashi: 12° | 29° Mbabane: 12° | 28° Maseru: 5° | 21° Antananarivo: 8° | 24° Lilongwe: 15° | 27° Maputo: 16° | 32° Windhoek: 8° | 23° Cape Town: 11° | 14° Durban: 14° | 27° Johannesburg: 12° | 22° Dar es Salaam: 21° | 29° Lusaka: 15° | 28° Harare: 13° | 27° Economic Indicators: Currency: GBP to NAD 23.64 | EUR to NAD 19.87 | CNY to NAD 2.5 | USD to NAD 18.18 | DZD to NAD 0.13 | AOA to NAD 0.02 | BWP to NAD 1.3 | EGP to NAD 0.37 | KES to NAD 0.14 | NGN to NAD 0.01 | ZMW to NAD 0.69 | ZWL to NAD 0.04 | BRL to NAD 3.33 | RUB to NAD 0.21 | INR to NAD 0.22 | USD to DZD 133.89 | USD to AOA 872.64 | USD to BWP 13.49 | USD to EGP 48.17 | USD to KES 129.98 | USD to NGN 1555 | USD to ZAR 18.18 | USD to ZMW 26.05 | USD to ZWL 321 | Stock Exchange: JSE All Share Index Same 0 | Namibian Stock Exchange (NSX) Overall Index 1783.48 Down -2.4% | Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE) MASI 13456.34 Up +0.17% | Egyptian Exchange (EGX) 30 Index 27828.92 Down -0.44% | Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) DCI 9380.4 Same 0 | NSX: MTC 7.75 SAME | Anirep 8.99 SAME | Capricorn Investment group 17.34 SAME | FirstRand Namibia Ltd 49 DOWN 0.50% | Letshego Holdings (Namibia) Ltd 4.1 UP 2.50% | Namibia Asset Management Ltd 0.7 SAME | Namibia Breweries Ltd 31.49 UP 0.03% | Nictus Holdings - Nam 2.22 SAME | Oryx Properties Ltd 12.1 UP 1.70% | Paratus Namibia Holdings 11.99 SAME | SBN Holdings 8.45 SAME | Trustco Group Holdings Ltd 0.48 SAME | B2Gold Corporation 47.34 DOWN 1.50% | Local Index closed 677.62 UP 0.12% | Overall Index closed 1534.6 DOWN 0.05% | Osino Resources Corp 19.47 DOWN 2.41% | Commodities: Gold US$ 2 472.15/OZ UP +0.15% | Copper US$ 4.43/lb DOWN -0.007 | Zinc US$ 2 886.80/T DOWN -0.55% | Brent Crude Oil US$ 84.50/BBP UP +0.38% | Platinum US$ 1 018.09/OZ UP +1.54%