As a competition for both popular support and political office, Election 2004 deepened the dominant-party system in South Africa. In terms of support, the African National Congress (ANC) did better than ever. Indeed, its leadership seemed more concerned about internal left-wing politics than about rival parties. Conversely, with the partial exception of the Democratic Alliance (DA), opposition parties did worse, and appear stuck in a zero-sum competition amongst themselves. In terms of office, ANC popularity meant greater national power and, for the first time, control of all provinces. Further, Election 2004 revealed that the more the ANC cooperates with its alliance partners the better it does at the polls, and the more influence the Congress Of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)/South African Communist Party (SACP) have over policy. For opposition parties this dynamic is reversed. Those parties which co-operated with the ANC to get office lost popular support, while those which eschewed office did better at the polls. In sum, while popularity and office are mutually reinforcing for the alliance, they constitute a dilemma for opposition parties. Finally, while there are signs that broader social change will pose some class-related problems for the ANC, more profound racial obstacles await opposition parties. All this suggests that ANC dominance will grow still further in 2009.
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Categories: Journal of African Elections