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Elections may birth highly unstable coalition government

The shenanigans of the multiparty coalition have been on display at the council for all to see, and is something that may make current issues and problems much worse if implemented at national levels if polls are inconclusive.

Professor Daryl Glaser from the Wits Department of Political Studies says he does not believe the upcoming polls will have much impact, in the short term at least.

The Melville resident said, “Because we have a system of cooperative governance, where the three levels of government need to collaborate and interact with each other, it is not always clear who to hold accountable.

“Sometimes the lines are not clear – making accountability tricky especially in local areas or at ward level.”

Ordinary citizens are often not in a position to identify the responsible person or even entity at times. “Obviously when it comes to services like water or electricity it becomes tricky. They do not operate at a ward level and are not strictly even local government level as there are water boards and so on – although the city does have some say in operations. City Power and the City have their own power stations like Kelvin in Kempton Park, so it can get murky when problems crop up.”

He describes his admiration for ward councillors like Ward 87 councillor Bridget Steer who works hard to keep communities informed of problems and escalating issues as they arise. “Councillors can only operate within the ambit of their legislated role. These limited powers are capped at raising issues with city entities, following up on complaints and concerns and escalating problems that have exceeded the allowed fix rates by entities.”

“Knowing you have someone batting on your behalf is mentally so beneficial, even if it doesn’t result in a big change of service delivery.”

Asked about the benefit of community protests and pickets he said, “If enough people become angry, and frustrated enough, some things might change but that is a big ask and not likely.” As seen last year when Ward 88 protesters attempted to use citizen advocacy to demand improved service delivery. Athough this did not have a lasting impact if any at all, it did create a sense of community, albeit for negative reasons. Currently residents are protesting for the right to clean and reliable water.

He says in 2022 when the ANC lost the metro in Gauteng, the shenanigans of coalition politics came to the fore. “Having a multiparty council has been a nightmare.”

The ANC held Gauteng in the last national polls but Glaser is unconvinced they will this time. “I believe they might fall below 50% because they are falling everywhere but it is touch and go. I believe they will lose Kwa-Zulu Natal for sure though. In Gauteng, they might lose the absolute majority so will need to find parties to form a coalition with.”

Glaser says of coalition politics, “Its success depends on the ideological compatibility of the coalition partners. For example, the DA and EFF are never going to have a stable coalition as they are ideologically opposed. So we are in new terrain here politically with these polls.”

He says it will be fascinating to see who becomes bedfellows with whom to get over the 50% threshold. “This might cause a lot of instability and have people who want to see a change come forward although they should be careful what they wish for – especially if it results in a highly unstable government.”

He ends by saying he wishes he had something more positive to say of the elections, ‘but there are too many unknowns’.

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