Browsing by Author "Folscher, Marine"
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- ItemThe soft power of populist politics : a case study of the Economic Freedom Fighters in the South African context(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2020-03) Folscher, Marine; De Jager, Nicola; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of Political Science.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: While in the past scholars of political science have generally thought democracy to die at the barrel of a gun – in coups and revolutions – the rise of populist politics has alerted the world to the possibility of democracy being strangled slowly in the name of ‘the people’. Populists consider society to be separated into two homogenous but antagonistic groups – the ‘pure people’ and the ‘corrupt elite’. While there has been much research into populism in the West, the particularities of the phenomenon within the African context are still emerging. The importance of a regional perspective becomes clear when one considers the deeply contextual nature of populist politics and the different iteration it therefore takes on the African continent: more economically focused than in the West, more prone to Marxist-socialist ideological underpinnings, reliant on a dual nexus of urban and ethnically-based rural support, and underpinning a rising wave of populism in post-liberation states aimed at former liberators. This study examines the phenomenon within the context of the current South African political climate, which is dominated by three political parties: the incumbent African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the official opposition, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a growing populist party. The broader rationale of this research is to advance an understanding of how populist discourse works within the African political and socio-economic context by using a South African case study. More narrowly defined, the main research question guiding this analysis is: Could the EFF have led to a shift wherein the ANC and DA became more populist in their political rhetoric and discourse? The research thus focuses on the populist party’s ‘soft power’ – its ability to make others choose to follow its example through influence, not threats. If the EFF could shift the political rhetoric and policymaking in South Africa despite their inability to amass sufficient electoral support to attain the highest office in the land, what could this mean for other governments facing populist resurgences in democratic states? Clearly, the phenomenon of populist parties’ ‘soft power’ needs to be better understood and studied. The discourse-centred approach of this study allows for populists to be identified by their political rhetoric, with speeches by political leaders forming the primary data used to analyse the level of populist discourse of a particular party. A holistic textual grading method, first pioneered by Hawkins (2009), which scores political speeches on a scale of 0 – not populist at all – to 2 – extremely populist – is used. In this study, the coding rubric compiled by Hawkins (2009) is utilised to score 12 speeches. These include two each from the 2014 and 2019 electoral periods for each of the three biggest parties in South Africa. Through the combination of the above qualitative coding method and a desktop study, this study found that the EFF has not caused a marked increase in populist political rhetoric in the other two parties. However, the populist party does pose a danger to the as yet unconsolidated South African democracy owing to its illiberal and anti-pluralist tendencies, and because of the possibility that other parties may also choose to adopt some of the EFF’s policies and behaviour (rather than rhetoric) in order to sway voters.