SA’s growing ‘no confidence’ vote

Sara Gon | May 11, 2019
Low voter turnout speaks volumes about how South Africans feel about the political options open to them.

The two major parties fell short because of low voter turnout – this is seen as one of the most significant measures of satisfaction, or rather dissatisfaction, with what the voters are being offered.

In the first democratic election in 1994, it was difficult to gauge voter turnout as millions of black South Africans were voting for the first time. Voters didn’t have to register to cast their ballots and it was impossible to determine a turnout percentage.

In 1999, with a base of 18 172 751 registered voters, the final turnout was 89.3%.

Voter turnout dropped five years later during the 2004 election – not unexpectedly – but the final percentage was still significantly high at 76.73%. The real number of registered voters had increased to 20,7 million.

In 2009, the number of registered voters increased to 23,2 million. The voter turnout, however, bucked the trend, increasing to 77.3%.

The decline resumed in 2014, however, when turnout dropped to 74.48%, when the base of registered voters that year had grown to 25,4 million.

In 2019, 9 million people who were eligible to vote didn't register to do so. And of the 26,7 million who were registered to vote, only about 65%, or some 17 million South Africans, joined the voting queues.

Thus, as many voted as were eligible to vote and did not, a telling indication of how voters felt about the options open to them.


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