An Electoral Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND
An Electoral Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND

The road to the 2019 elections will not be easy, as the ANC numbers continue to drop, the DA battles to keep its outright majority in its Western Cape stronghold and the reality sinks in that there may not be an outright winner in Gauteng.  

This is according to a new opinion poll by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) released on Wednesday.

The poll found that nationally the ANC will drop to 54.7%, while the DA and EFF will experience slight increases nationally.

This is based on a 71% voter turnout, which the IRR’s head of politics and governance Gareth van Onselen said is the most reasonable expectation for the May 8 general election.

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With the survey's 3.3% margin of error, the results could deviate 3.3% in either direction.

The general election is being touted as the most hotly contested since 1994, with opposition parties hoping to push the ANC below 50% in provinces such as Gauteng and the Northern Cape.

In the IRR’s most recent poll, in December 2018, the ANC had 56% of the vote, the DA 18% and the EFF 11%. In the most recent poll, conducted from February 12 to 26, DA support increased to 21.8% and the EFF to 12.2%.

ANC electoral support declined in the past 10 years under former president Jacob Zuma, culminating in it falling  below 50% nationally in the 2016 municipal elections.

Since Zuma’s resignation in February 2018, the party under new  President Cyril Ramaphosa has been running on a ticket of the “new dawn”, hoping to reinvigorate its support.

Van Onselen said the general decline in the ANC’s support from 2014 could be attributed almost be exclusively to the EFF.

“The ANC and the EFF are locked in a battle for between 5% and 10% of alienated black ANC voters,” he said.

“Where those voters end up on May 8 will go some way towards determining the fate of these two parties," he said.

The ANC was able to claw back some support in the past two months of 2018, but due to allegations at the state-capture inquiry about facilities-management company Bosasa and the stage-4 load shedding, some voters started shifting back to the EFF, at the governing party’s expense, Van Onselen said.

The IRR also did polling in Gauteng and the Western Cape where the ANC and DA, respectively, govern.

However, the numbers do not look good for either party in their provinces. The recent poll shows that neither party will get the majority of the vote in Gauteng. The ANC is on 41.6%, down 12 percentage points from 2014. The DA, which is targeting the Gauteng premiership, is at 32.4%, up 1.6 percentage points from 2014.

The EFF is at 18.2% in Gauteng, up 7.9 percentage points from the previous general election.

In the Western Cape, the DA is on 50.1%, a huge drop from the 59.4% it secured in 2014. It puts the party’s majority in the province on a knife edge, Van Onselen said.

The ANC has made a slight jump in the Western Cape to 33.9%.

Smaller opposition parties in the Western Cape such as the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) fall within the 3.3% margin of error. Van Onselen said the ACDP and FF Plus had a good showing in the Western Cape.

The advent of Patricia de Lille’s Good party,  polling at only 2.5%, could, with other smaller parties, determine the DA’s ability to retain a majority.