Strategic voting 102: The Wasted Vote

By Jessica Edgson & Grant McCalgan

Pic: Desiree Schirlinger

In the last issue of Activate, the idea of strategic voting was explained and discussed. For those who missed the last article, strategic voting involves someone voting for a party, a party that they would not normally vote for, because that party is a strong opposition to a party that they dislike. The question up for discussion this week is whether there can be such a thing as a wasted vote.

In South Africa we use a Proportional Representation system, which means that there are 400 seats in Parliament, divided amongst political parties according to the percentage of votes that they received. A party that only receives 0.25% of the total vote still gains one seat in parliament. Dr Sally Matthews from the Politics department says, “There is less [of] a need in South Africa for strategic voting because, unlike Britain and America, every vote could help to put a candidate in parliament or even have that candidate become a Minister, as in the case of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) who only have one seat in parliament.” Taking this into account, can a vote therefore be wasted?In a democracy, a strong opposition is ideal, but is a vote for a minor party wasted? With political parties continuously joining coalitions with bigger parties, is it possible that voting for a small party could be a waste if that small party then joins with a strong party? Helen Zille, leader of the democratic Alliance (DA), wrote on the party’s website on 6 March, “The DA has always ruled out a coalition with the ANC because democracy can only be strengthened if there is an alternative to the ruling party. Cope has a duty to the electorate to state unambiguously its position on a post-election coalition with the ANC.” This was written in response to rumours that a possible coalition might happen between the ANC and Cope.

Each and every voter should ask themselves these important questions before practicing their democratic right: Do I agree with the manifesto of this party? Will this party have enough support to make a difference in this country? Do I support a system such as strategic voting? The most important question, though, is: what is the realistic outcome of my vote? After that, all that you can do is close your eyes and trust the South African population to make the best decision. This is your country and the outcome of this election is your future.

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