Parties of pressure: Opposition parties in the dominant-party systems of Botswana and South Africa

Parkin, Annemie (2022-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2022.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Democracy requires the participation of political parties to afford voters choice in terms of their representatives and to provide effective opposition. Opposition parties play an important role in keeping the ruling incumbents accountable, providing legitimacy to the system, encouraging political participation, and offering an alternative to the electorate. However, in many African multi-party democracies, opposition parties have been weak and, in some instances, weakened. In Southern Africa, the emergence of dominant-party systems has posed unique challenges to democratic competition and consolidation. It was therefore important to understand the functions opposition parties fulfil, the conditions they operate in, and the challenges they face in the dominant-party system context. Two Southern African case studies – Botswana and South Africa – were selected to investigate this. The study thus focused on how opposition parties remain relevant and the challenges they face in dominant-party systems. The concept of ‘remaining relevant’ was linked to democracy-supporting functions which included legitimising, electoral participation, and accountability functions. The study was a comparative case study and used key-informant interviews as well as a desktop literature review to conduct the research. The key-informant interviews were with prominent members of opposition parties. The interviews’ data were analysed using computer-assisted data analysis software (Atlas.ti) and thematic content analysis was used to identify themes in the data. The main findings were linked to the identified democracy-supporting functions and the challenges opposition parties experience in relation to these functions. In terms of legitimising functions, opposition parties attempt to educate people about democracy and provide an alternative to the ruling party. A challenge in relation to this was the delegitimisation of and the lack of trust in opposition parties. In relation to electoral participation functions, opposition parties were intent on providing viable alternatives to the electorate and the most important strategy that was identified was the mobilisation of the electorate. A challenge in the Botswanan case was the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system which has favoured the ruling party. In the South African case, the electoral system was not identified as a challenge, but poor voter turnout and apathy were the key identified issues. Accountability functions were identified as central to opposition parties’ role in dominant-party systems. They also collaborate with one another and other civil society organisations to keep the ruling party accountable. A big challenge in Botswana is the discrepancies in resources between the ruling and opposition parties. In South Africa, negative perceptions about opposition parties were a big challenge. The study is significant because it sheds light on how opposition parties remain relevant in dominant-party systems. Opposition parties in the two cases are intent on providing viable alternatives and seek to win more power. For now, they operate as parties of pressure and are focused on a) contributing to the legitimacy of the democratic system; b) mobilizing the electorate and encouraging conventional participation; and c) holding the ruling party and government accountable. Thus, while constrained by the unlikely alternation in power, characteristic of dominant-party systems, these opposition parties still fulfil important democracy-supporting functions.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Demokrasie vereis die deelname van politieke partye om kiesers die keuse te gee rondom hulle verteenwoordigers en om effektiewe opposisie te bied. Opposisie partye speel ‘n belangrike rol om regerende bekleers aanspreeklik te hou, regmatigheid aan die stelsel te verskaf, politieke deelname aan te moedig, en ‘n alternatief aan die kiesers te bied. Tog, in baie multi-party demokrasiee in Afrika, is opposisie partye swak, en in sommige gevalle, verswak. In Suider-Afrika, het die opkoms van dominant-party sisteme unieke uitdagings vir demokratiese kompetisie en konsolidasie veroorsaak. Dit is dus belangrik om die funksies wat opposisie partye vervul, die kondisies waarin hulle funksioneer, en die uitdagings wat hulle ervaar in dominant-party stelsels te ondersoek. Twee Suider-Afrikaanse gevallestudies – Botswana en Suid-Afrika – is gebruik om dit te ondersoek. Die studie fokus op hoe opposisie partye relevant bly en die uitdagings wat hulle in dominant-party sisteme het. Die konsep ‘relevant bly’ is gekoppel aan demokrasie-steunende funksies wat regmatigheid, verkiesingsdeelname funksies, en verantwoordbaarheidsfunksies insluit. Die studie was ‘n vergelykende gevallestudie en het sleutel-informante onderhoude asook ‘n werkskerm literatuuroorsig gebruik om die navorsing te doen. Die sleutel-informante onderhoude was met prominente lede van opposisie partye. Die onderhoude se data is geanaliseer met die hulp van rekenaar-ondersteunde data analise sagteware (Atlas.ti) en tematiese inhoudsanalise is gebruik om temas in die data te identifiseer. Die belangrikste bevindinge is gekoppel aan die verskillende demorkasie-steunende funksies en uitdagings wat opposisie partye ervaar. In terme van regmatigheidsfunksies het opposisie partye gepoog om mense op te voed rondom demokrasie en om ‘n alternatief te bied tot die regerende party. ‘n Uitdaging in terme van hierdie was die delegitimisering van en die gebrek aan vertroue in opposisie partye. In terme van verkiesingsdeelname funksies was opposisie party gefokus om realistiese alternatiewe aan die kiesers te bied en die belangrikste strategie wat geïdentifieseerd is, is die mobilisering van die kiesers. In Botswana was die ‘first-past-the-post' (FPTP) kiesstelsel wat die regerende party bevoordeel, ‘n uitdaging. In die Suid-Afrikaanse geval, is die kiesstelsel nie geïdentifiseer as ‘n uitdaging nie, maar swak verkiesingsopkoms en apatie is geïdentifiseer as sleutel kwessies. Verantwoordbaarheidsfunksies is geïdentifiseer as sentraal tot opposisie partye se rol in dominant - party stelsels. Hulle werk ook met mekaar en burgerlike samelewingsorganisasies om die regerende party verantwoordbaar te hou. ‘n Groot uitdaging in Botswana is die ongelykhede in hulpbronne tussen die regerende en opposisie partye. In Suid-Afrika, is negatiewe persepsies rondom opposisie partye ‘n groot uitdaging. Die studie is belangrik omdat dit insig bied oor hoe opposisie partye poog om relevant te bly in dominant-party stelsels. Opposisie partye in die twee gevalle is gefokus om realistiese alternatiewe te bied en om meer mag te wen. Vir nou funksioneer hulle as partye van druk en fokus om a) by te dra tot die regmatigheid van die demokratiese stelsel; b) meer deelname aan te moedig; en c) om die regerende party en regering verantwoordbaar te hou. Dus, terwyl hulle beperk word deur die onwaarskynlike verandering in mag, ‘n eienskap van dominant-party stelsels, vervul hierdie opposisie partye steeds belangrike demokrasie-steunende funksies.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/124733
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